28 December 2015

NSW State Government to force local council amalgamations

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Media reports on the 18th of December 2015 suggested that NSW Premier The Hon. Mike Baird MP was set to announce the forced amalgamations of a number of councils to create larger municipalities and significantly reduce the number of local governments.

Minister for Local Government The Hon. Paul Toole had previous welcomed the number of councils who had lodged their merger preferences ahead of the November 18 deadline.

“There is widespread acknowledgement among councils of the need to be Fit for the Future. There is real momentum building up among councils that are talking and agreeing to come together,” the Minister said at the time. “The NSW Government’s Fit for the Future package is aimed at keeping downward pressure on rates – reducing the burden on mums, dads, families and pensioners.”

The Fit for the Future package was undertaken by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) who reviewed the financial viability and ability to deliver services of NSW Local Councils, determining nearly two-thirds of the NSW councils were not financially Fit for the Future.

At the time the report was released in October 2015, many local councils were opposed to the talk of mergers or forced amalgamations, with some councils responding to the IPART review with merger proposals of their own.

“The IPART report found reducing waste and red tape through local government reform could free up to $2 billion over the next 20 years for ratepayers, which could stabilise council rates and fund better services and new infrastructure for communities.” Minster Toole said.

However, Opposition local government spokesman, Peter Primrose disputed that in an interview with ABC in December, saying many ratepayers would be angered by forced amalgamations.

“The backlash will take place when people realise that this isn’t really improving the types of services that are delivered to them,” Mr Primrose said. “Any you’ve still got federal and state governments cost-shifting services onto local councils, and ratepayers are going to have to pick up the tab.”

The Local Government Boundaries Commission is expected to oversee the amalgamation process.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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