Inner West Independent

Leichhardt Council joins list of local governments against amalgamations

Local Government Minister Paul Toole. Image: Facebook

Leichhardt Council has joined a list of inner city councils that have expressed their opposition to the state governments local government amalgamation proposal, called Fit for the Future.

Leichhardt Council voted last week to oppose the State Government’s plans to amalgamate local councils because of the financial burden it would put on residents and ratepayers in the local government area.

The NSW Government has stated that the local government amalgamations will benefit councils financially, citing the fact that many councils are struggling in this department. Leichhardt Council has refuted this, saying it is in a healthy financial position.

“Leichhardt Council remains opposed to any merger with its neighbouring councils and continues to support local government reform initiatives through regional and sub-regional resource sharing/strategic alliances and sector wide cooperation,” the council said last week.

Greens Mayor Rochelle Porteous highlighted the need for councils to question the State Government’s findings.

“We are hearing claims that amalgamations will deliver lower rates, greater savings and that councils under 250,000 people are not financially sustainable.”

“This is untrue. Firstly, due to the way rates are calculated, for a council like Leichhardt, mergers with other nearby councils would most likely result in higher rates for our residents.”

“Also, amalgamations cost a lot of money, and there is strong evidence with recent NSW amalgamations that councils, their staff and ratepayers keep paying that cost for years.”

“Leichhardt Council is financially sound and according to the Government’s own assessment has a sound financial outlook for the next three years. In fact the State Government could learn a lot from what many local Sydney councils are getting right,” Cr Porteous said.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole acknowledged that every local government area is different.

Last Friday, October 31, he released a “toolkit” to local councils, by which they may assess their needs and priorities as well as suitability for amalgamation.

“The Minister has stressed it is up to councils to map out their future and now is the time to be honestly consulting with their communities,” a spokesperson for the Minister said.

Minister Toole is remaining positive about the possibilities for councils and residents.

“This is councils’ opportunity to design their own improvement plan and set their vision for the future, using the extensive work of the Independent Local Government Review Panel as an important starting point.”

The stance of the government on council amalgamations as not being forced came into question a fortnight ago, after NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance told a business breakfast audience that forced amalgamations would be inevitable.

“I think eventually we’re going to have to pull out the stick. We have offered up the carrot first, we’re going to have to pull out the stick.”

The government has since distanced itself from those remarks, and is maintaining that amalgamations will not be forced.

Councils have to the end of June next year to submit proposals on how they plan to respond to the Fit for the Future reforms.

 

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