Reports in Fairfax and News Ltd. papers this week give us the clearest sign yet that the State Government is planning forced amalgamation of local councils.
The reports say that Local Government Minister Paul Toole has put a plan to Cabinet for all councils to be sacked and replaced with administrators to fast track amalgamations.
This week I joined the Sydney Metropolitan Mayors are calling on Local Government Minister Paul Toole to abandon and publicly reject any plan to sack every council in NSW to implement its amalgamations agenda.
Forced amalgamations are costly, disruptive and undemocratic. To secretly plan forced amalgamations, especially before IPART completes its recommendations, demonstrates complete disregard for proper process and community involvement in the future of local government.
How can we trust anything about the local government reform process if the Government is developing a secret plan to ram through amalgamations?
Council amalgamations currently require the NSW Government to apply to the independent Boundaries Commission or to the chief executive of the Office of Local Government and run public consultation on the proposed change.
Reports in Fairfax and News Ltd. papers say the Government will look to circumvent these requirements to unilaterally redraw council boundaries across NSW.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has been tasked with reviewing submissions from each local council and making recommendations to the Government by October.
Councils across Sydney ran extensive consultation and found overwhelming opposition to amalgamations. Statistically valid polling carried out over the past four months found that 85% of Sydney residents supported their council standing alone and more than 60% actually selected the stand alone option as their first preference.
The NSW Government's obsession with amalgamations has overshadowed more significant and generally supported recommendations contained in Revitalising Local Government, the final report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
We need a 21st century system of local government and planning in New South Wales, which is why Sydney Metropolitan Mayors supports the majority of recommendations made by the Independent Local Government Review Panel, particularly a stronger partnership between state and local government and supporting councils to be financially sustainable.
Some Sydney Metropolitan Mayors member councils are pursuing voluntary amalgamations where there is support from their communities and clear benefit to improve sustainability.
Write to him directly to let him know forced amalgamations are undemocratic and misguided.