Once again this is the focus of debate. There are some questions that need to be answered before we go down this path.
What were the savings delivered to ratepayers after the last round of amalgamations?
2. What are the savings that are likely to be delivered this time?
3. Will we lose the local in local government?
4. Does this open the doors for party politics in Councils?
The last round of amalgamations was now over 20 years ago. You will find many articles on the savings that could be made and absolutely none on those actually delivered. If this was great success why aren’t these figures available?
The savings this time are around less CEOs, less Senior Managers and fewer elected members. No more than twelve for each Council as per pending legislation. In Queensland being elected to Council earns the individual a full time job and pays about $163,000 in base salary and approx. $30,000 for additional committee work. Unley Councillors currently get $17,000 plus up to $5,000 for additional responsibilities. You can have 10 Unley Councillors for the price of one in Brisbane!
People seem to appreciate having a councillor that they know, that they receive regular communication from and who are keen to solve whatever issues they have or new initiatives to share. Unley are currently considering having 3 wards with 3 people representing each ward. This would be some additional work load but not an insurmountable one. Still able to be fitted in with full-time job! And not paid any more money. How many people need to be in an electorate before each individual just can’t do it as a volunteer and must be paid a salary and probably need electoral assistance as well?
The last answer lies in the involvement of party politics at the local level. Do we really want this? Should it be a stepping stone? How to we get bigger without the candidates being endorsed by Liberal, Labor or The Greens? Who pays for the much more expensive campaign? And will voting be on party lines? Will the outcome of a debate be known even before a motion has been moved and seconded? This would be a sad day as the independence of our councillors is essential for good governance.