Inspire : Public Works July Aug 2013
18 Public Works Professional July-August 2013 COVER STORY Finally, the question has to be asked whether the community would be well served by having a smaller number of councillors who are actually paid for their ser vices. For instance, would talented councillors become full-time paid representatives, perhaps having to suspend their professional careers -- particularly if they may be unelected after four years? From my observation, where this has happened elsewhere, local government tends to become party political. I think it's better to have talented volunteers who are prepared to give up their time for community beneft rather than full-time paid councillors inevitably involved to a greater degree in aspects of city administration rather than decision making. IF IT WAS YOUR DECISION, WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO MAINTAIN THE EFFICIENCY AND CONTINUAL IMPROVEMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT? Upsizing wouldn't be on my agenda for the reasons already outlined -- and particularly not in rapidly expanding Perth. That's because many councils will grow phenomenally in the future due to the distribution of Perth's 50,000 population intake each year. For instance, the City of Armadale already has 65,000 people, is growing at a rate of 5% a year and will easily remain sustainable through to 2031, when it is predicted to have 138,000 people. So if it were to merge at this point with another council growing at the same rate, you would have an entity catering for the needs of around 300,000 people in 20 years time. To make existing councils more effcient, one of my priorities would be to liberate councils from current constraints on commercial effciency and asset utilisation. Local government could easily be more effcient in these areas, but statutory roadblocks are preventing innovations like PPPs or embarking on urban development or renewal. In WA, these constraints are deliberately applied by successive paternalistic state governments (supported by some industry groups) determined that local governments should not become too infuential or involved in matters of fnance or business. FOR LG TO REMAIN EFFICIENT, WHICH FUNCTIONS SHOULD REMAIN STATE RESPONSIBILITIES? Historically, there has always been an understanding that local gover nments provide the 'delivery' end of a ser vice, or the layer that contacts the community. But as Perth has grown, local government -- through community infrastructure planning -- often has to provide ser vices and facilities that should have been anticipated in a macro sense by state agencies. In the area of social ser vices, for instance, local government often fnds itself rolling out ser vices that should have been provided by others. The risk is that if LG plays too much of a role in addressing social wellbeing, it may entrench social disadvantage rather than alleviate it. That's because the poorer areas with the more poorly resourced local governments would suffer from such arrangements. One of the biggest challenges in a growing city like Perth is planning and resourcing transport and infrastr ucture improvements, and this is primarily a state rather than a local government function -- although there will always be a degree of overlap. Once out of the urban area, though, there are several functions where either state or federal governments could play a greater role. Many rural councils are struggling, and it seems unfair for instance that they should have to provide accommodation or other incentives to attract doctors or pharmacists. WILL AMALGAMATION NOW OCCUR IN PERTH, AND IF SO WHEN? Yes, it’s defnitely going to happen, but its precise implementation and timeframe is still uncertain. That is obviously causing a degree of apprehension among people employed in local government. But one of the richest things about Perth is its growth, and that means, regardless of which councils merge with which, the skills of public sector personnel are still going to be very much in demand. ••• RAY TAME A er 40 distinguished years in public works, Ray Tame PSM was made an IPWEA Emeritus member last year and honoured with a Public Service Medal this year. As CEO at the City of Armadale since 1998, he is a key player in systemic change that is rapidly preparing Perth and its people for growth over the next 50 years. Serving four eastern outer-Perth councils since 1973, he knows the area intimately and has helped steer much of its growth with his engineering expertise and community intuition. For many years a Trustee of the IPWEA WA Foundation, he now chairs the Board of Trustees. A erce advocate for local government, he has strong views on its relevance, both in WA and nationwide. The question has to be asked whether the community would be well served by having a smaller number of councillors who are actually paid for their services.
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Public Works Professional Sept - Oct 2013