Councillors angry at merger decision

30 Jan, 2014 01:00 AM
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Tammin shire president Scott Uppill.
In the end I think it was a political decision.
Tammin shire president Scott Uppill.

REJECTION of the proposal to amalgamate the shires of Cunderdin, Quairading, Tammin and York has been met with fierce criticism from council members.

Tammin shire president Scott Uppill said the reasons provided by the Local Government Advisory board were both insulting and disappointing.

Cunderdin shire president Rod Carter agreed, describing some of the arguments outlined by the board as grossly exaggerated.

One of the main rationales behind the rejection was opposition from community groups who believed they would lose their community identity if the shires were to merge.

According to the board, of the 195 submissions about the proposal, 83 per cent strongly opposed it.

In the final assessment report, made public last week, the board said residents of the four communities had been disgruntled there had been a lack of public consultation.

The board also stated there was inconsistency in the approach to dissemination of information about the proposal across the four communities.

However Mr Uppill strongly disputed this line of reasoning, arguing that the communities simply didn't fully understand the reasons.

"In the conclusion of the report it implied that we didn't do enough to promote it in our communities," Mr Uppill said.

"We feel like we had good consultation with our communities and did as much as we could with the time we had to put it out there in the community.

"In the end I think it was a political decision."

Mr Carter said that the board was way off the mark, and that there was only a small minority in each of the shires that put a case against the amalgamation.

"That's going to happen with any change because people don't like change, particularly when it's major change," Mr Carter said.

"They prefer things to stay the same."

The board suggested the operations of the York shire was also a high point of contention and impacted community support for the proposal.

It said there was a public perception that the new entity could inherit some of the governance issues which may have been problematic in York.

This was driven by feedback from residents of Cunderdin, Tammin and Quairading who suggested that a merger with York would result in a loss or diminution of their community identity.

Mr Uppill explained that many years ago York experienced a series of issues with the council and as a result there had been a lot of community unrest.

But he believes events of the past have nothing to do with current circumstances and shouldn't have been a factor in the amalgamation process.

"The whole thing is bigger than these personal issues," Mr Uppill said.

"It wasn't a takeover from York, it was a merger of all four council's business plans.

"Actually as a group we all worked exceptionally together and York is a pleasure to work with."

Mr Uppill strongly believes that amalgamation of the shires would be of significant benefit to the four communities and see funds better spent in areas where it is needed most.

"The whole thing with amalgamations is it's not just about delivering huge savings in costs, it's about maintaining services and actually delivering the money on the ground efficiently," he said.

"With a bigger council you can attract professional staff that can do a lot of the day-to-day work in house that we currently rely on consultants for and outsource from York.

"We outsource a ranger, planning and health services from York now anyway.

"That's why Tammin really liked the idea of working with three other shires."

Mr Carter said it was impossible for the shires to continue as they are with reduced State Government funding.

"There's very limited capacity in the country to increase rates because everyone is doing it pretty tough at the moment," he said.

"So what's the alternative? You've got to look at how you conduct council business and that's what we were trying to do."

The councils hope to meet with the Local Government Advisory Board to discuss the matter further.

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