05 August 2015

Fierce backlash against amalgamation by local councils in NSW

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If you had the chance to pick up a newspaper or read the online version in the past couple of weeks, it hard to have missed the fierce debate on whether NSW local councils should amalgamate.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal recommended that Sydney's 41 councils be reduced to 18. Additionally, local councils have to submit their Fit for the Future applications due in by June 30, where they must demonstrate scale and capacity, sustainability and efficiency.

This news was not welcome by many councils and the backlash to be a stand-alone council started almost immediately. 

Mind you the report does state that the amalgamations are ‘voluntary’ however the question to ask is, is it really?  

There are several Facebook pages dedicated to fighting the amalgamations and even a Save Our Councils Coalition which was formed by councillors, residents, mayors, community groups and businesses owners to voice their opinion to NSW government.

Cr Moore from the City of Sydney even described the proposal as a "power grab" by NSW's Liberal-National Government.

In another recent article, Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge mentioned that an overwhelming number of NSW residents were “deeply opposed” to the idea of councils merging and that there was no “rational case to supersize NSW councils.

Labor's local government spokesman Peter Primrose said forcing councils to merge would result in a loss of "local identity". He said that "people like their local communities. People are proud of the services in their local communities"

Even doing a quick google search of local council + amalgamations doesn’t bring up anything positive. Here are a few of the headline grabbers:

Not only do local councils have a short deadline to submit their proposals but it is also proving to be a costly process. The fact that Minister Paul Toole is willing to support every council and allocate a relationship manager and a panel of experts is generous but is not that helpful particularly since it will be an expensive process. For instance these are just what a few councils have spent to date:

1.       Willoughby: Budgeted $190,000; surveys, a report, consultants

2.       Ryde: Budget up to $500,000 for surveys, reports and advertising

3.       Randwick: $252,632, no breakdown given

4.       Lane Cove: About $180,000; research, surveys and advertising

5.       Bankstown: $80,000 on surveys and polls
(Statistics from North Shore Times)

Well now the $1 billion provided as part of the reform package doesn’t seem sufficient. As Professor Brian Dollery, from the University of New England Business School mentioned that “the “chaotic” way the process had been conducted also proved costly. The criteria councils must use to assess themselves had shifted three times in eight months, the last on June 5”

I am no expert in local government matters but from my research and what I see in the news, local councils in NSW aren’t too happy with the idea of amalgamations. I am not saying that they should or shouldn’t amalgamate but they definitely should be given a choice.
When Aranei was seven she truly believed she could one day train turtles in the Galapagos. Unfortunately she came to the realization that such a thing could never happen. A couple of years later, she decided to be a conference producer and has never looked back. The best part of her role is exploring different sectors and getting in-depth insights from thought leaders and well-experienced specialists from varying sectors. 


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