THE demand from WA local government minister John Carey that the City of Fremantle reduces its council from 13 to a maximum of 9 members will be a real challenge for our council and the community.
I suspect it will be one where no one will be totally satisfied.
Whatever the decision council makes and whatever the outcome, it will be a compromise that some will consider to be unfair.
Below are the options that Fremantle council will initially consider, but they are open to suggestions from the community:
1: Retain current six-ward structure with one councillor per ward and the mayor (total seven elected members).
2: No wards and have either five, seven or nine elected members (including the mayor).
3: Two wards (dividing the City of Fremantle district roughly either north/south or east/west) with the following representative sub-options:
• Two councillors per ward and the mayor (total five elected members)
• Three councillors per ward and the mayor (total seven elected members)
• Four councillors per ward and the mayor (total nine elected members)
4: Three wards – with two councillors per ward and the mayor (total seven elected members)
5: Four wards with the following representative options:
• One councillor per ward and the mayor (total five elected members)
• Two councillors per ward and the mayor (total nine elected members)
The no wards option seems the most concerning to me, as it might encourage political parties to get more involved with local government elections. It could also become tempting for business groups to start campaigning, to support their preferred candidates.
It would be almost impossible for individual candidates to reach out to the entire Fremantle community.
How can individuals with limited financial and people resources create a public profile for themselves that would make the community take notice, as opposed to a powerful and financially robust political party, or as was the case during the last election, a group of ‘independents’ campaigning together?
The no wards option would also see an end to local representation, with the potential, however unlikely, that all elected members could come from the same area.
The option of two large wards raises the lack of local representation again.
Six wards with just one councillor each seems fair, but are only six councillors, plus the mayor, enough community representation?
Four wards with two councillors each, sounds all right, but which wards would we get rid off, and would that be fair to those living in the abolished wards, that they will become part of another ward?
There would be outrage about that.
The most important issue to consider is that the decision needs to prioritise community.
Minister Carey also wants compulsory voting, but is that desirable when so few people take interest in local government, and the ignorant majority would decide who gets onto council?
Optional preferential voting is also on the cards, but who do we give our preferences to when most of the candidates are unknown to us?
No matter what the final outcome, Fremantle council will get the brunt of very strong community concern and outrage, when it should be directed at the McGowan government.
Why repair what is not broken?
Why not have proper council reform and merging of smaller councils, as was badly attempted, and hence failed, by the previous Colin Barnett Liberal government?
Democracy should not be compromised.
The grassroots democracy of local government needs to remain strong!