Council trio sits tight
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
THREE shire councillors say they will stay another two years instead of facing all Toodyay voters for the first time in October.
Their decision comes as the shire awaits the result of a formal State Government inquiry.
The three were elected in 2017 under a former ward system that barred most Toodyay people from voting in their elections.
Only 11 per cent of Toodyay’s 2500 electors voted two years ago for Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty, and only 8.3 per cent for Cr Paula Greenway (pictured).
Nobody voted for Shire President Brian Rayner because he was the only candidate to stand in the now-abolished North Ward.READ MORE
That situation is unlikely to repeat under a new council-approved system that no longer restricts candidates to wards and allows all Toodyay voters to vote for all candidates.
President Rayner’s current two-year term as shire leader ends in October when a new council will choose a president and deputy president for the next two years.
Toodyay’s shire president is paid $40,799 a year, the deputy president $18,445 and seven councillors get $13,364 each.
President Rayner, Deputy President Chitty and Cr Greenway told recent shire public meetings that they won’t resign.
Cr Bill Manning, who was also elected for two more years under the old ward system, has resigned from September 30.
He said all councillors with another two years to serve should also resign and seek re-election in October.
“This will mean that all councillors have been chosen by the entire electorate and ensure greater legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate,” he said.
Cr Manning said his home was for sale and he planned to move away from the shire.
“I expect this could take a considerable period of time and in the meantime I would like to continue to serve Toodyay residents on the council,’ he said.
Deputy President Chitty told a June shire public meeting that she considered resigning to stand for re-election but decided she was lawfully elected in 2017 to serve four years.
Former Cr Craig Brook’s departure last April means there will be at least one new face on the next nine-member council.
Six vacancies also gives voters greater opportunity to elect a new absolute majority of five members for important decisions such as electing a shire president and rates.
Cr Ben Bell, whose two-year term expires in October, says he will run again.
The three other councillors whose four-year terms expire in October – Rob Welburn, Eric Twine and Judy Dow – have not publicly stated their intentions.
None have previously faced a shire election involving all Toodyay voters, and only Crs Bell and Manning have faced a postal ballot which resulted in significantly higher voter turnout in 2017 than in previous years.
The council and shire are currently undergoing a formal State Government inquiry into their operations and affairs.
Investigators from Perth have spent all of this year interviewing and gathering evidence from local residents after WA Local Government Minister David Templeman ordered the formal inquiry last December following a year of official departmental monitoring of the shire.
The investigation’s focus shifted last month to the shire, and CEO Stan Scott told a July public meeting (pictured above) that staff had been busy producing documents and other material for official scrutiny.
It is understood the investigators face political pressure to report heir findings to the Minister before the October shire elections.
This year’s poll will be a postal ballot run by the State Government.
It follows a switch from shire-run ‘in person” voting in previous years and led to a record local voter turn-out of 51 per cent in 2017, compared with only 30.8 per cent in 2015 and 27 per cent six years ago.
The electoral roll for this year’s poll closes at 5pm on Friday August 30.
People who have changed address or don’t know if they are correctly enrolled to vote can check their status online at elections.wa.gov.au.
The State Government will run a two-hour information session for prospective candidates in the council chamber in Fiennes Street (opposite the tennis courts) at 6pm on Thursday August 29.
Topics include an overview of local government, councillors’ roles and responsibilities, and questions.
An eight-day nomination period for candidates opens on Thursday September 5 and closes at 4pm on Thursday September 12.
Australia Post will start mailing out election packages with candidates’ statements, ballot papers, voting instructions and reply-paid envelopes to all enrolled voters on Friday September 20.
The ballot closes at 6pm on Saturday October 19 and results will be declared by a State Government returning officer in the council chamber later that evening.
Unlike in Federal and State elections, voting in local government elections is not compulsory.