04/08/2022 - 16:11

Stirling contemplates WALGA exit

04/08/2022 - 16:11

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The state’s largest local government is weighing up a WALGA exit with claims the association has spent a "disproportionate amount of time" advocating smaller councils.

Stirling contemplates WALGA exit
City of Stirling council voted for a report on being a WALGA member, mayor Mark Irwin pictured. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira.

The state’s largest local government is weighing up a WALGA exit with claims the association has spent a "disproportionate amount of time" advocating smaller councils.

City of Stirling council voted for its staff to compile a report on the WA Local Government Association, based on a motion raised by councillor Keith Sargent at a meeting on Tuesday.

“It is apparent that WALGA spends a disproportionate amount of time advocating and supporting minor and regional Councils with very different agendas and scope than Stirling," Cr Sargent said.

“As one of the largest local governments in Australia and the largest in WA, Stirling should explore the risks and benefits of being associated with WALGA and whether there are more strategic options in the future."

A report will be presented to council outlining the history, costs and services derived from being a WALGA member with alternative options provided.

“I do wish to emphasise the bit at the end and provide alternative options for advocacy and support that may be relevant to the City of Stirling,” Cr Sargent said at the meeting.

Stirling mayor Mark Irwin said commissioning the report was not predicating the city's stance on its WALGA membership.

"The forefront of the intent is not to exit WALGA, it's not to predicate what the findings will be," he said.

"The intent and discussion council had was around what advocacy WALGA has."

The city had been a member of WALGA since the independent association was formed in 2001.

Mr Irwin said the report would also bring to light financial figures on the city's interactions with the association, including HR services, preferred supplier program and the Local Government Insurance Scheme.

"In reality we don't really put those figures out in a transparent forum and this is a great chance to do that," he said.

"I'm still keen to find out the value of those interactions with WALGA and the value of that to our ratepayers."

According to the council agenda, annual WALGA membership for 2022/23 costed the city about $129,716.

All 139 local governments in the state are current members of WALGA but City of Nedlands councillors withdrew its membership in September 2013.

Minutes from the 2013 meeting included commentary that WALGA had failed to serve the interests of the City with several local authorities considering their membership at the time.

Nedlands council eventually voted to rejoin the association in late 2020, finding potential savings were more significant in an assessment of the benefits seven year after its resignation.

City of Vincent also made a bid to leave the association in 2016 in a move led by then-mayor John Carey.

However, the city dropped the plan to leave over fears it would end up spending more money without the discounted supplier rates.

A report from May 2016 found withdrawing from WALGA would lead to a $60,000 increase in insurance costs.

Vincent city staff also estimated an increase in procurement costs of between $90,000 to $180,000 if the city was unable to access WALGA’s preferred supplier agreements.

City of Bayswater also reviewed its WALGA membership in 2017, with councillors requesting a report on the costs, benefits, advantages and disadvantages of being a member.

The city maintained its level of membership and subscription service after staff presented the report.

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