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Roads. Rates. Rubbish. If only it were that simple.
Despite readers enthusiastically embracing a campaign by The West Australian and Community Newspaper Group for councils to focus on cutting red tape and getting back to basics instead of spending so much time on ideology, the Local Government Minister David Templeman yesterday gave a speech urging them to do the opposite.
“We are not in the 1930s and 50s when it was roads, rates and rubbish,” Mr Templeman, pictured, told a room full of chief executives and mayors at the WA Local Government Association’s annual conference.
“So the criticism that seems to be seeping out of some spheres of the media and, unfortunately, some members of parliament is unwarranted.
“It is time we reminded the broader community and elected members this is an important sector. It is now doing complex work, broad work across a whole range of spheres.
“When we do get the criticism and … what I really think are pathetic front page stories sometimes, we’ve got to fight back because we know we’ve got a great story to tell.”
The West has exposed several examples of bureaucracy gone mad in recent weeks with one council trying to dictate whether food vendors could put sprinkles on ice-cream and another getting involved in the colours of a retail store’s logo.
Shadow local government minister Bill Marmion jumped on the comments by Mr Templeman.
Mr Marmion has previously said too many councils were losing sight of “their core responsibilities” and trying to “dictate to people how to live their lives”. “I have already spoken widely about the need for councils to stick to their knitting,” he said yesterday.
“But many local governments (also) feel they have been forced to fill service delivery areas that the McGowan Labor Government has refused to fund. These include dealing with coastal erosion, attracting GPs to country towns and dealing with homeless.”
Mr Templeman told The West there were always areas councils could improve, but the whole sector should not be tarnished by a handful of examples.
“The role of local government in our community life is much more diverse than it has ever been and for good reason,” he said. “Do we want to go back to the time councils weren’t involved in delivering arts, community opportunities for young people, delivering services for older citizens and people with disabilities, do we want to go back when that wasn’t happening? No.”
WALGA president Lynne Craigie said local governments had to continually step into spaces where State and Federal levels did not.
“While it’s fine to tell us to stay home and do our knitting and just focus on rates, roads and rubbish … that is not what our communities are demanding,” she said.
“Local governments are getting hammered over too much red tape, the reality is local governments are bound by legislation which inflict red tape on local government from State and Federal bodies.”