Inner West Independent

De-amalgamation vote: The rescission filibuster

Inner West residents will be given a vote on de-amalgamating the Inner West council. Photo: Peter Boyle

Opinion by PETER HEHIR

It’s been suggested by those who oppose de-amalgamation that the argument for it, is simply nostalgia or some unsubstantiated notion that smaller is better.

This clearly needs to be examined in some detail. Prior to amalgamation Leichhardt was in the top 10% of financially viable councils in NSW.

The KPMG report on the fiscal amalgamation was presumably so damning of the process that it was buried and further amalgamations were then dumped. 

The argument for amalgamation was predicated on the equally unsubstantiated assumption that bigger is better.

But is it?

It was also suggested that economies of scale would make substantial cost savings. 

So where are they?

The IWC is now at least $7 million in debt and rates are being increased in Marrickville and Leichhardt. The overall amalgamation debt won’t be paid off for years to come.  

Another factoid is that the bigger council would be more efficient. 

Again, is it?

At the last ordinary meeting of the IWC there were 54 items on the business paper. How many were dealt with by 11 pm? Only 7. That’s correct. Just seven…

Only 7 items out of 54! Surely no one in their right mind would dare suggest that that was a smooth and efficient operation. So is it a fact that economies of scale would and have streamlined operations? 

I think not. 7 out of 54 is an administrative disaster!

Much of the time is spent at council meetings with Liberal and Labor Councillors sniping at one another, point scoring in the manner demonstrated in the bear pit in the NSW chamber or on that televised farce that passes for debate in the Federal parliament.

All three make any episode of “Yes Minister” look like fact rather than fanciful scriptwriting.

At the extraordinary meeting held on Monday night to debate the motion to give the people of the inner west a say on whether they wanted the IWC to remain; the ALP were at pains to stress that if the public were given a vote on the issue it could well result in IWC officers losing their jobs. 

That is certainly possible. Possible, but not probable. In fact the opposite is much more likely.

When the 3 councils were forced to amalgamate council staff DID lose their jobs and the redundancy payouts were substantial and contributed in no small measure to the current debt. 

If the councils were to revert back to their former entities the likely result would be that the staff that were made redundant may well get their jobs back, thus creating more employment, not less. So the sob story about council staff is just another piece of fake news; another factoid in the making.

It is likely though that the mayor would lose a chunk of his mayoral salary and his personal staff of five, yes five, would be reduced. Now that would be a shame.

His staff draw a $2.1 million salary over the 4 year term. We could conduct the poll for less than that.

However the latest act of political bastardry in this saga following the Stamolis/ Macri motion getting up 8/7 on Monday night, was to see a rescission motion lodged by three outgoing Labor councillors. 

These are Anna York, Lucille McKenna and Sam Iskandar.

There is absolutely no point to this, other than to delay the hand of the General Manager, who was simply following the instructions of the majority of our elected representatives, by preparing the application to the NSW Electoral Commission before the end of the month, thus ensuring that the poll could be conducted on September 4th.

Councillors Stamolis and Macri have just written to the NSW EC stating in part;

 “The aim of the rescission motion is to effectively delay action on the resolution so that it will be too late to lodge notice of a poll with you.  As such, a short extension of time from you, until mid-June 2021 would be greatly appreciated.   

We are also investigating whether this delay tactic contravenes s.372 (2) of the Local Government Act 1993 and/or clause 17.4 of the Inner West Council Code of Meeting Practice.” 

Australia is a representative democracy. In our political system, eligible people vote for candidates to carry out the business of governing on their behalf. The decision has been made and time is of the essence.

No matter how many times the ALP ask for the vote to be taken, the result will still be the same; 8/7, and that is to give the people a voice. 

The rescission motion is nothing but a delaying tactic, a filibuster and an outright slap in the face to the democratic process. 

As we were never asked if we wanted a bigger, almost regional council, is it so monstrously undemocratic to ask residents do they want their Councils back?

Sure there’s a cost. But as Baird created this mess, they can foot the bill to clean it up.  The Liberal State government is able to fund de-amalgamation under Section 218CC (6), which states in part;

“The Minister… is to ensure that the cost of any de-amalgamation… is fully funded

Now, that’s democratic…

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