Newly-elected Shire of Augusta-Margaret River councillor David Binks wants an external audit of the Shire’s finances and to reintroduce the wards system to deliver “fairness and equity” to ratepayers. Cr Binks, pictured, told the Times this week he had no pre-existing views on structural problems in the Shire’s budget, but ratepayers on the election campaign trail consistently brought up value for rates and a perceived unfair distribution of resources to communities such as Cowaramup and Augusta. “When you understand that a councillor is ultimately responsible for things like the finances of the Shire, effectively the buck stops on the councillor’s desk, so it is within our remit to commission things like independent audits for appropriately qualified people to look at the entire organisation and give us as much information as possible,” he said. “I think there’s wisdom in us doing it.” While the move has the support of some elected members, an audit and the reintroduction of wards relies on council majority support. Cr Binks said communities outside of central Margaret River felt they did not always get the same allocation of resources. He wanted to scrutinise all developments and infrastructure to ensure fairness. Shire president Paula Cristoffanini declined to comment on the proposal. “These are matters for council to consider if and when they come before council,” she said. New councillor Tracey Muir said she also supported a thorough look through the books. “I’m not saying we’re going to make major changes,” she told the Times. “We need to look at it with a considered pace … and go through the budget and see what’s spent.” Cr Binks said the external review was not motivated by any existing concerns except to follow thorough process and respond to community feedback. He would also use the induction period on council to get a better sense of how the Shire and its council related to the community. “I want the Shire and the council to be something the community is proud of,” he said. “One of the key messages which came to me through the campaign was communities in general do not feel well connected to the Shire and the council.” The ideas follow a report by consultants Markyt which found widespread concern about the Shire’s focus on non-core local government issues. The report, which was not initially released to the public, found surveyed residents placed value-for-money from rates, waste disposal, roads and economic development as their highest priorities. Conservation and environmental management, playgrounds and parks, and feral and domestic animal control were also identified as important. The Shire scored 53 per cent on the performance matrix, below the industry average of 56, while the region’s liveability was 10 per cent above the average at 85 per cent.