From spending millions of ratepayer dollars on renewable energy to policing what people eat, council red tape is strangling business and infuriating ratepayers.
In the past three months, the overreach of local government in WA has been impossible to ignore.
From the City of Cockburn’s adoption of a “traffic light” system to make food trucks restrict their unhealthy products at events, to Fremantle’s ban on the release of helium balloons and the council’s $2 million spend on green targets, examples of councils taking on responsibilities usually reserved for State and Commonwealth governments are multiplying.
Now, frustrated ratepayers and embattled businesses can air their council gripes. The West Australian and 13 Community Newspaper Group titles including the Joondalup Times, Fremantle Gazette and the Western Suburbs Weekly on Monday launching a campaign to end needless council red tape.
You can share your problems with local councils by emailing email@example.com — and newspapers across the State will take up your fight.
While retailers struggle to stay afloat in the current economic climate and frustrated ratepayers’ grapple with the rising cost of living, some local councils are failing to support their communities and are instead are taking up causes outside the core responsibilities to which they have been entrusted — such as building approvals, rates, road and footpath maintenance and rubbish collection.
Shadow local government minister Bill Marmion said: “People are finding it tough to watch council rates go up beyond the rate of inflation as their footpaths have cracks in them, street trees need lopping, roads haven’t been maintained, but they see a council focusing on moving Australia Day or on chocolate sprinkles.”
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It comes after urgent calls for leadership within the City of Perth, a council that has been likened to a rudderless ship, as retailers battle to navigate their way through the worst retail crisis in decades.
“Local government should primarily stick to what they’re supposed to do,” Mr Marmion said. He said that while many of the policies local councils were implementing had good intentions, they were not the responsibility of local government.
“Promoting healthier eating for example, everyone knows it’s a good policy, but you don’t have to change the rules at local government level,” Mr Marmion said.
“Same with encouraging people to be environmentally conscious. That’s good. But … then they should talk to their State and Federal member and encourage policy changes at that level.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said making it faster and easier to access local government services was essential to WA businesses’ survival.
“It makes little sense why a business should be expected to follow a different application process and pay different fees for operating a food van in one local government area to the next,” Mr Rodwell said.