Shire wards to go, but anger over next elections
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
THE TOODYAY Shire Council has asked the State Government to abolish electoral wards for next October’s shire elections but angered some ratepayers by proposing that four of the shire’s nine councillors should not have to face the polls until 2021.Read more
It follows a shire call for submissions in which local electors were asked if they wanted to scrap ward boundaries and reduce the number of councillors from nine to seven.
The council voted last month to back public support for nine councillors after councillors said that number would enable the council to continue to reflect diverse community views.
However, the call for public submissions did not ask voters if they wanted the shire’s four councillors with four-year terms that don’t expire until 2021 to keep their jobs for another two years.
The four are Shire President Brian Rayner, Deputy President Therese Chitty and Crs Paula Greenway and Bill Manning.
Rayner didn’t have to face voters
President Rayner is the only current council member who did not have to face voters at the last shire election because nobody stood against him in his North Ward seat although a total of 11 candidates contested four seats in the shire’s other three wards.
The abolition of wards is expected to eliminate the election of councillors that nobody voted for because all voters will be able to vote for all candidates regardless of where they live.
Deputy President Chitty’s motion to abolish wards, keep nine councillors and allow four councillors – including herself – to serve out the balance of their four-year terms to 2021 was seconded by Cr Judy Dow.
Cr Chitty said it was important for the council to maintain stability rather than risk the election of nine new inexperienced councillors in October.
“I’m not trying to secure my position but if we had nine new people it could be quite disconcerting,” she said.
Cr Dow, whose four-year term expires in October, said “I wouldn’t like to see all councillors stand down”.
Cr Ben Bell questioned why ratepayers were not asked in the shire’s call for public submissions if they wanted the four councillors to stay on until 2021.
“We put two options to the community and came up with three answers,” he said.
“At no time was option two (retaining four councillors) put to the people.
“My understanding is that it was generated by the CEO (Stan Scott).
“Those four councillors have been voted for by only a quarter of the shire.
“If you’re confident you’re doing a good job, you’ll have no problems getting re-elected.”
In answer to Cr Bell’s question about what the shire asked for in public submissions, President Rayner said the option to retain four councillors (including himself) was not included.
“It was not put out to the public,” President Rayner said.
CR BILL MANNING, whose four-year term expires in 2021, said the three parts of the question had been lumped together as one motion.
“I agree with abolishing wards and retaining nine councillors to provide a more diverse range of views,” he said.
“But what worries me is option two.
“I can see that it provides more stability but a more telling argument is that it should be up to the whole of the shire to decide who sits on council after the next election.”
Cr Manning said it didn’t seem right that the council should keep four councillors, including himself, for whom most people in the shire didn’t vote while five new councillors would be elected by everyone in the shire.
New CEO possible
Cr Eric Twine, whose four-year-term expires this year, said it would be a “shame” if a whole new council was elected in October with the shire’s new sports and recreation centre, a new roof for the Old Newcastle gaol “and who knows, a new CEO”.
“A whole new council is too great a risk,” Cr Twine said.
Cr Rob Welburn, whose four-year term also expires this year, said “the reason we don’t have full elections every four years is to maintain continuity”.
Cr Chitty’s motion to abolish wards, retain nine councillors and let four councillors remain until 2021 was carried 6-2, with Crs Bell and Manning against and Cr Craig Brook absent on leave.
The proposal has been sent to the Local Government Advisory Board for it to consider recommending that an order be issued by WA Local Government Minister David Templeman to abolish wards in the next October’s Toodyay Shire Council elections.
The public has the right to make submissions to the board before it makes a final recommendation.