City of Bunbury councillors to keep council seat empty until 2019

The City of Bunbury Council will have one less person after an extraordinary election was voted down.

The seat will become vacant on March 6 after councillor Joel McGuinness resigned from the position to take a job in Victoria.

Council held a special meeting on the item on February 27 after only providing the councillors a day notice.

The executive recommendation was to permit the vacancy created by the resignation to remain unfilled until the next ordinary election in October 2019.

The second part of the recommendation was to request the chief executive officer provide a separate report to council with options for electoral representation and councillor numbers by the end of May 2018.

As part of councillor McGuinness’ argument against the motion, he said the second part of the recommendation was disgusting and shouldn’t be there.

The second part of the motion was voted down four votes to nine.

There were two options in the officer recommendations which were not voted on by council which included either an election held by the WA Electoral Commission or an in-person election.

The report showed that an election done by the commission would cost about $65,000 while an in-person election ran by the city would cost about $15,000.

However the report showed the last time an in-person election was held in the city the voter turn out was only 2.3 per cent.

Councillor Hayward moved option one of the executive recommendation and said the benefits of not holding an extraordinary election would potentially save the city about $100,000.

He said not enough people would be engaged in an extraordinary election also making it not worthy.

Councillor Betty McCleary was the first to speak against the motion and said residents would want full representation on council and the time frame was too long to keep the seat empty. She said there would not be enough buffer for council if someone was away or sick or couldn’t come to meetings.

Mayor Gary Brennan spoke for the motion and compared the situation to the City of Busselton who only have nine councillors and operate effectively. He said when you consider the time around Christmas and other breaks in council it would only leave the seat empty for 14 months.

Councillor Brendan Kelly spoke against the motion and said a price couldn’t be put on democracy.

“The important factor is that this provides an opportunity and the privilege for someone else to serve and we can never underestimate how much local government matters,” he said.

The motion was passed seven votes to six.