Push for more councillors

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
The question has been raised whether the Shire council should increase its membership.
Camera IconThe question has been raised whether the Shire council should increase its membership.

Community leader Lloyd Shepherdson says it’s time to consider increasing the number of councillors elected to guide the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River.

With the idea first flagged in the lead-up to last month’s local government election, Mr Shepherdson has stuck by his remarks, telling the Times growth in the region and the many serious issues affecting it deserved greater representation.

“I would like to see it go to nine (councillors),” he said.

“I know it would be more expensive.

“There are so many decisions where one or two are absent or there’s a conflict of interest so only four or five people are making the decision.”

Mr Shepherdson said he was conscious he and many other residents had flagged cost concerns during the election, but the re-gion had grown considerably in recent years, it was crucial to get major decisions right, and seven members to represent the Shire without wards demanded the increase.

New Shire president Ian Earl said he remained comfortable with seven elected members, but told the Times if a mandated review of the wards system threw up any challenges, “we may need to look at the numbers so as to get the balance right between ward size and numbers of people”.

A review was flagged by some residents, including recently retired councillor Mike Smart, with 250 signatures needed to trigger the process.

Mr Smart said an increase in councillors might be required if the wards system was reintroduced.

But retired Shire president Pam Townshend was against the idea.

“I am not convinced that we need more councillors,” she said.

“Would it mean better decision making? Probably not.

“It would certainly cost the ratepayers more.”

New deputy Shire president Pauline McLeod said the WA Local Government Association had advised existing councillor numbers were standard.

“I believe that the issue of whether or not our community is best served with or without wards is perhaps more important,” she said.

Cr McLeod also believed mandatory voting for local government elections should be introduced.

New councillor Kylie Kennaugh said feedback showed residents wanted costs and staff levels kept to a minimum and seven members was enough for now.

“I personally believe that number of councillors should be reflected by the population and adjusted accordingly with growth,” she said.

Fellow new member Brian Daniel said two extra councillors would be worthwhile if it made deliberations more efficient.

Cr Paula Cristoffanini said a thorough look at the benefits of extra members would be needed before any decision could be made.

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