In the lead up to this Saturday's state election I again called on NSW Premier Mike Baird to rule out, if elected, the forced amalgamation of local councils.
Forced amalgamations will be expensive, disruptive and anti-democratic. Before the last election the Liberal Party gave a guarantee that it would not go down this path but up to now, Premier Baird has avoided giving a response.
In the interests of transparency, the Premier must tell the community whether or not a Coalition Government will push ahead with forced amalgamations.
A Sydney Morning Herald report this week offered new analysis from the NSW Parliamentary Budget Office that shows the cost of merging councils would be over $445 million and "significantly higher" if forced. The report also shows that proposals to amalgamate the City of Sydney with surrounding councils would have the highest initial cost.
Most of the recommendations from the Government's own Local Government Review Panel were strongly endorsed by Sydney Metropolitan Mayors, Local Government NSW, the City of Sydney and many other councils across NSW. These changes would support the ongoing sustainability of most councils without the heavy disruption and cost of amalgamations.
As Chair of the Sydney Metropolitan Mayors (SMM) I wrote to the Premier and Opposition Leader on behalf of 26 councils, their mayors, and their two million residents. On 20 March, Opposition Leader Luke Foley replied, committing: "not to force any councils to merge if we are elected". We need the same commitment from Premier Baird.
As part of its local council reform process, the Baird Government has directed us to seek your views on whether the City provides effective and efficient services and has the capacity meet your needs.
I would appreciate you taking a couple of minutes to complete this online survey and share your thoughts: http://sydneyyoursay.com.au/Your-City