Local Government Minister Tony Simpson is mistaken in his claim that the Local Government sector has provided implicit support for mandatory Elected Member training.

In December the WA Local Government Association’s State Council resolved to oppose mandatory training following input from all member Local Governments via its Zone and State Council governance process.

WALGA President Cr Lynne Craigie said the Minister’s comments claiming the number of responses to a WALGA survey on the topic implied all those that didn’t contribute were in effect in support were mistaken.

“The Minister attributes support for a change to mandatory training to all Local Governments that didn’t openly oppose the idea, including those that didn’t respond to the survey,” Cr Craigie said. 

“I would argue that the more reasonable and likely assumption would be that those Local Governments weren’t inclined to change the status quo and that means that the vast majority oppose mandatory training.”

Cr Craigie highlighted that the WALGA State Council didn’t just rely on the survey to determine its policy position.

“We tested the survey results by presenting the findings to a full round of Zone meetings across the State. These meetings involve delegates from all member Local Governments, regardless of whether or not they participated in the survey,” she said.

“If the Minister’s proposition was correct, the survey findings would have been voted down and amended. On the contrary, they were overwhelmingly endorsed which makes me all the more confident that our adopted policy position reflects the true view of the sector.”

In explaining the sector’s position on compulsory training, Cr Craigie emphasised that it wasn’t a new issue.

“WALGA identified the importance of Elected Member training in enhancing the professionalism of Councils nearly 10 years ago. Our Systemic Sustainability Study championed the need to invest in more training for Elected Members,” she said. 

“We stopped short of endorsing compulsory training in the belief that it was undemocratic to place educational prerequisites on a person’s right to represent their community unless that was to be the standard for all spheres of government.  Furthermore, there is the risk you could discourage individuals from standing for election at a time when we’re trying to increase diversity on Councils.

“The truth is that whilst you can mandate training, you can’t mandate learning. Simplistic tactics like mandating processes don’t address underlying issues and can ultimately cause more problems than they solve.”

Cr Craigie noted State and Federal elected representatives weren’t subject to similar requirements, suggesting it was an inequitable approach.

“If we are going to have that conversation, it needs to be considered across the full political spectrum and not just in relation to Local Government.”