Freo's View

WILL LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM CREATE BETTER COUNCILLORS?

Posted in city of fremantle, council reform, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on June 28, 2019

 

Landmark local government reforms passed by State Parliament will bring councils into the 21st century as the first reforms resulting from the Local Government Act review. But will the new WA Local Government Reform create better Councillors through inductions and training?

I have been amazed for many years that many of those who nominate for a position on local council do not even bother to do the basic homework of attending Council and Committee meetings, so when elected they come in unprepared and for some of them it takes very long to understand local government process, so let’s hope the reform will improve the level of local governance we are getting.

These reforms target key priority areas identified by the community and local government sector to better prepare council members for their challenging role, strengthen governance, empower councils to communicate with residents using modern technology and expand the amount of information available to the public online.

Commencing at the 2019 ordinary local government elections in October, all candidates will be required to have completed an online induction. This free, online module will be available on the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ website in July.

Building the capacity of council members further, all council members will be required to complete a training program following their election covering key areas such as conflicts of interest, understanding financial reports and budgets, and serving on council.

Reforms will also:

  • Improve standards of behaviour through a mandatory code of conduct for council members and candidates;
  • Introduce new standards for CEO recruitment and performance management to help elected members select a CEO and assess their performance;
  • Provide clarity for elected members to manage real and perceived conflicts of interest related to gifts; and
  • Require local governments to publish information on their website such as local laws, approved council policies and all documents contained within a meeting agenda allowing instant access to council information for everyone 24/7.

 

Roel Loopers

 

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MODEST RATES RISE FOR FREMANTLE

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on June 26, 2019

 

Council rates in Fremantle will only rise by 1.8% and that put our local council at number 16 on the list of local government rates rises.

Our neighbours East Fremantle come in at number 9 with a 2.4% rise, Cockburn at number 14 with a 1.9% rise and Melville at number 21 with a 1.1 rates rise.

The top of the list at number 1 is the City of Rockingham with a 3.6% rise, no doubt to reflect the status of being the home of the WA Premier Mark McGowan. ūüė≥

Cottesloe is number 2 with a 3.5% rise and Nedlands comes in at number 3 with a 2.95% rise.

Roel Loopers

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DON’T GAG LOCAL COUNCILLORS FROM BEING TRANSPARENT

 

The alleged attempts to silence local councillors and stop them from commenting on social media raise serious concerns about our democracy, although Fremantle councillors are very-almost too- restraint in their use of social media to publish facts to combat the often ridiculous and uninformed comments made by members of the public.

While I understand that Mayors should be the official spokespeople for local councils, it should not stop the other elected members from participating in social media. They are after all our local parliament, so gagging them is like denying a state or federal minister from commenting, because the PM and Premiers are the official spokespeople.

Our Fremantle councillors comment now and then on Facebook and¬†Freo Massive but rarely here on Freo’s View, unless it is local government election time and they want another four years, so they us this platform to increase their public profile. It might well be Fremantle Council policy that only the Mayor can comment on this blog.

I believe the Fremantle community would welcome more engagement on social media with their councillors, as it helps transparency and to clarify issues people might not understand or are not well enough informed about. One should not just leave that to the Mayor and the City of Fremantle’s media people.

It is definitely not up to our State Government to dictate how the elected local members communicate with their community and sensor or gag our councillors. We elected them to govern our city and they are accountable to explain to us why and how.

Roel Loopers

 

 

Roel Loopers

HAVE YOUR SAY ON NEW LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT

 

WA Local government Minister David Templeman has an article in today’s West Australian in which he encourages the community to get involved in the review of the local government act and make suggestions on how we can improve our local councils and administrations.

Here some information from the government website about it:

Phase one: modernising local government

Phase one of the review focuses on four key areas:

  • Meeting community expectations of standards, ethics and performance
  • Meeting public expectations for accountability, including gift disclosures
  • Electronic availability of information
  • Building capacity through introducing administrative efficiencies

Local governments and the community were invited to have their say throughout the consultation period. The phase one discussion paper was released on 8 November 2017 and public consultation closed on 9 March 2018.

Phase two: delivering for communities

‚ÄčCommencing in 2018, phase two will ensure local governments are positioned to deliver for the community by examining:

  • Elections
  • Community consultation and engagement
  • Integrated Planning and Reporting
  • Financial management
  • Rates and charges
  • Beneficial organisations (council controlled organisations)
  • Local laws
  • Interventions
  • Administrative efficiencies

What you need to know

What is the Local Government Act review?

The Local Government Act review will introduce changes that will modernise the Act and ensure that local governments are positioned to deliver for the community into the future. The review is being undertaken in two phases. The first consultation paper released on 8 November 2017.

Phase two of the review is now underway.

Local government is real grassroots government so we should all take an active part in trying to improve the performance of our elected members and staff, and get greater transparency and better communication, so have your say!

Roel Loopers

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FREMANTLE LOSES OUT ON $ 2 MILLION IN RATES ANNUALLY

 

When the Western Australian state government complains about the unfairness of the GST distribution, they might want to also have a think about the unfairness to some local governments, like Fremantle, regarding the local council rates exemptions for all kinds of institutions.

It costs the City of Fremantle estimated over $ 2 million annually, which is a big amount for a city with a small ratepayers’ base. We don’t know the exact figures because the Valuer General’s office does not provide councils with property values where there is no need.

But according to City of Fremantle figures we lose out on $ 707,000 from Notre Dame University, $ 210.544 from crown properties, $ 98,992 from places of worship, $ 24,085 from schools/educational, $ 630,819 from charities and $ 54,846 from others/written law/acts.

The above figures are not complete as they do not include the large TAFE site in Beaconsfield and others which are exempt from paying local government rates. The City also does not get rates from Fremantle Ports.

So maybe it is time the State Government compensated affected local councils for state laws that financially disadvantage them considerably.

Roel Loopers

CAN FREMANTLE CITY SAVE ON INSURANCES?

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, Uncategorized by freoview on May 7, 2018

 

I hope that the City of Fremantle beancounters and Councillors did read the article on the front page of the POST community newspaper this weekend.

The article claims that local councils can save a lot of money by shopping for insurance, rather than simply using the Local Government Insurance Scheme-LGIS.

Staff from the City of Nedlands estimate they have saved $ 266,000 in premiums in four years while the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Councils saved $ 400.000 off its yearly LGIS bill after getting cheaper quotes from other insurances.

Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon told the POST that LGIS member councils could save about 30% off their premiums by leaving the LGIS.

Fremantle is not exactly swimming in money, so if the City could save hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be great.

Roel Loopers

 

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WHAT IS FAIR PAYMENT FOR MAYORS?

Posted in city of fremantle, councils, local government, western australia by freoview on March 19, 2017

The Sunday Times reports today that seven out of the twenty-eight metropolitan mayors are ‘moonlighting’ and have other jobs.

Local government is not intended to be a full-time job for Mayors and Councillors but the workload is significant as I know from observing the huge number of hours Mayor Brad Pettitt and most Councillors spend on looking after Fremantle.

For the Freo Mayor it is a full-time job with additional local government work at the Heritage Council for which he annually receives $ 9,000 in addition to the Mayor’s payment of around $ 140,000. Correct me if I am wrong as I can’t find the exact amount.

But the City of Swan Mayor does only two days full time at council there and received nearly $ 140,000 per year, while Jim O’Neill, the Mayor of East Fremantle gets $ 43,000 for 25 hours a week and works another 45 hours per week as deputy-principal of the Willeton Senior High School.

I believe elected members should get properly paid as many of them spend the equivalent of full-time job hours on serving the community.

Roel Lopers

HERITAGE AND DENSITY NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE

Posted in architecture, city of fremantle, councils, development, heritage by freoview on November 23, 2016

After my previous post about the Atwell Arcade development and previous posts about my objections to the Notre Dame University proposal for the West End, and my reservations about the height of the Quest Hotel, and the general lack of creativity of new buildings in Fremantle’s CBD, it is interesting to read in the West Australian today the opinion of heritage architect Philip Griffiths, who spoke at a Future Bayswater forum.

Griffiths told the audience that respecting heritage and promoting local development are not mutually exclusive, and mentioned the City of Fremantle as a local government that got a lot smarter about preserving heritage while encouraging well-designed density. I believe the well-design part of that sentence is controversial as Freo is mainly getting mediocrity in design.

Heritage is a reason to be careful about how we develop because we don’t want to create a sterile town, but it is not a reason not to do anything, the architect said. That should be a¬†very important consideration for the City of Fremantle because so far we are getting boring new buildings!

According to the Property Council of WA there is strong support for medium and higher-density apartments near public transport hubs and in the inner city.

I personally have no issue with higher-density in appropriate locations around Fremantle and in the east CBD but somehow we need to give more power to the Design Advisory Panel, and planning rules need to address the visual impact of new buildings better, so that we can get very good and outstanding buildings, not the bland and boring ones that are being built and proposed now.

Creating a new modern part in inner city Fremantle is in my opinion desirable as it means many more people will live in the CBD and that will encourage new traders, bars, etc to open up shop and make Freo more vibrant, but we need to get great architecture!

Roel Loopers

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CHANGES AT THE TOP IN FREMANTLE CITY

There is quite a bit going on within the City of Fremantle administration with new jobs advertised weekly and new people taking up important positions, with new CEO Phil StJohn taking up his role officially in July this years

At Council meeting last night I noticed for the first time Graham Tattersall, the new Director of Infrastructure and Project Delivery, while Marisa Spaziani who was the Director of Community Development is now heading the new People and Culture Department. Her old job has been advertised, so someone new will take over there soon.

I have no idea what that new department will be doing as Pete Stone only recently became the new director of the Department of Culture&The Arts, so it looks as if there is a duplication of services there as we have two departments responsible for culture. And keep in mind that directors at the City of Fremantle receive a payment around $ 240,000 per annum, so adding new directors is costing a lot of ratepayers’ money!

The Festivals Coordinator position, long held by Alex Marshall, also has been advertised. I don’t know¬†if Marshall has been promoted or left Freo City, with all the changes occurring in his field and the Fremantle Festival moving to a fully curated festival.

At Council the committees now have new and more elaborate names but the Special Projects Committee does no longer have their meetings in public and that is a shame. One would think that special projects of new innovative ideas and long-term city planning are especially of interest to the community and the COF should embrace community participation and ideas.

It would also be nice if the City put out media releases about personnel changes at top-level as the public should know who get’s these extremely well-paid jobs and what they did before they came to Freo.

It would also be good to be informed who has been appointed as the external project manager for the Fremantle Oval project.

Roel Loopers

COMMUNITY A PRIORITY FOR NEW CITY DEVELOPMENT

Two interesting articles about city development in the West Australian property section drew my attention this morning.

The first one “Giving residents first priority” is something I have been calling for for many years, as I believe proper community consultation about new development¬†at¬†the earliest possible stage will take a lot of negativity out of the process, and does not force community groups to be reactive when it is often too late, and subsequently being branded as nay-sayers.

The West reports that RobertsDay‘s studio leader Duane Cole said “Developers tapping into ¬†a community’s values and culture should start with genuine collaboration to build trust.”

Duane Cole told the West “…residents needed to be first in the process, not an afterthought.” and I could not agree more with that sentiment.

I do realise that Councils and developers might be reluctant to take this on as often the NIMBY attitude makes collaboration with the community difficult and frustrating, but building resentment by ignoring the wishes of the community is definitely not the way to go.

The second article is by Dr. Anthony Duckworth-Smith of the Australian Urban Design Research Centre in Perth who writes that AUDR has been working with the City of Fremantle to explore ways of finding the right balance for infill.

Duckworth Smith writes in the West that if Fremantle wants to keep its diverse social mix it should be looking at building smaller homes in suburban areas, because in the past two decades the vast majority of new homes in Fremante were four or more bedrooms, although households have become smaller and more diverse.

He warns however that the suitability for small houses is limited and does not cater for those who want to own. a house.

Modified local planning and design guide lines that respect the character of suburban areas could be developed to achieve urban infill the community accepts.

The City of Fremantle is willing to lead to find solutions to fill the gap between single residential and high density apartment buildings, Duckworth-Smith writes.

I believe that good infill in suitable targeted areas is the way forward, not just random infill and higher density because a property becomes available for development. That requires long-term planning and a vision for the ‘burbs’.

It has become quite clear that especially in older character suburbs many residents are against substantial change, infill, high density and medium and high rise buildings. That does not make the task for local and state government any easier. Some people believe the urban sprawl is inevitable to continue the great Australian dream of owning a large house with front and back garden, even when we have limited water supplies and urban sprawl is very expensive because it requires ever expanding roads, rail, power, water and gas to suburbs many tens of kilometres away from the CBD. This of course also causes traffic nightmares during peak hours.

Like with most things in life there are no easy solutions that will please and satisfy everyone, but I believe tough decisions have to be made now because future generations will suffer from the lack of foresight and leadership of our state and local governments.

Roel Loopers

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