SWEEPING local government reforms means no wards for East Fremantle, while neighbouring Fremantle must say goodbye to four councillors.
The revamped Local Government Act, announced last month by local government minister John Carey, has abolished wards for small local governments, meaning the Town of East Fremantle’s will be merged into a single “district”.
Despite being ward-less, the council said it had no concerns that cashed-up candidates from its more affluent areas could have an unfair advantage, resulting in lop-sided representation.
The current council will not have to change or vacate under the reform.
“Everything else would remain the same,” a spokesperson from the East Fremantle council said.
“[There is] no requirement to reduce elected member numbers.”
The City of Fremantle also needs remodelling, with the reform reducing the number of councillors to eight, plus one mayor, based on Fremantle’s population category.
The reform “means a reduction of four councillors as a minimum,” according to a City of Fremantle spokesperson.
“Any changes to wards, etc is still to be determined and will be subject to a ward and representation review,” the spokesperson told the Herald.
Deputy mayor Frank Mofflin said the council “will work through a process to determine how best to implement the changes.
“We will need to find new ways of working to ensure our community gets adequate representation and access to elected members,” Cr Mofflin said.
Fremantle councillor Ben Lawver told the Herald there were “a couple options that I think would be best for Fremantle.
“One is going down to four wards with two councillors each. That obviously means redrawing boundaries.
“Another potential one would be eight wards with one councillor each.”
Local government minister John Carey has outlined two options for councils who must make changes in order to meet the requirements set by the reforms.
Councils can decide to take a “voluntary pathway”, which requires them to submit a
“high-level plan” outlining their proposed changes to meet the reforms, and must be submitted by October 28.
If the councils choose to take a “reform election pathway” or no plan is submitted, there will be a full spill.
Other changes to the Local Government Act include moving all local councils to an optional preferential voting system, which has been met with a mixed response from council members.
City of Melville mayor George Gear welcomed the move.
“I do support optional preferential voting as it is the fairest system,” Mr Gear said. “I think most councillors would support the reform for the [same] reason.”
But East Fremantle mayor Jim O’Neill was less enthusiastic.
“Our preference would be to retain the current system; first past the post,” Mr O’Neill said. “I am reluctant to change at this point.
“Preferential voting is a more complex method which requires additional time to count.
“As a council we need to ensure that whatever changes we make, it results in encouraging more people to vote.”
Cr Lawver suggested preferential voting will have little effect on the fairness of local council elections if ballot issues are not addressed.
“How the votes are done is almost irrelevant if you still have a system that allows for what appears to be some ballot harvesting,” Cr Lawver said.
“I struggle with identifying any problems that preferential voting is trying to fix.
“I propose a very simple reform: you have to have your ballot mailed to your house.”
by GRACE BARLOW