Inner West Independent

Inner West councillors, candidates and residents argue the case for de-amalgamation

Community members and councillors have fought to get de-amalgamation this far. Photo: Peter Boyle

By EVA BAXTER

A remote grassroots residents forum was held on Wednesday night to argue the case for de-amalgamating Inner West Council.

A question will be put to residents to answer voluntarily on December 4, ‘do you support the inner west LGA being de-amalgamated so as to restore the former local government areas of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville? YES or NO?”

A report commissioned by council to analyse the cost benefit for de-amalgamation released last month noted that there is no prescribed methodology for a de-amalgamation of councils in NSW and therefore had to create a methodology based off assumptions.

It found the one-off de-amalgamation costs would be $26.2 million and the ongoing costs and benefits would be $22.1 million.

Pip Hinman, Stanmore ward Socialist Alliance candidate said at the forum “the NSW government made this mess, and it must be forced to fix it.”

The Local Government Act 1993 was amended this year to state that a new council may submit a proposal for de-amalgamation to the local government minister.

It is then referred to the boundaries commission which will conduct an inquiry and make a report recommending its support or rejection.

If the minister supports the de-amalgamation proposal, it must ensure that the cost of any de-amalgamation of the new area is fully funded by the government.

Victor Macri, Marrickville ward Independent councillor said at the forum this represents a pathway if the community should vote in favour of de-amalgamation.

Bigger not better

Hinman said the amalgamated council dramatically reduced local representation across the three councils with councillors being reduced from 36 to 15.

“Forced amalgamations made the council more remote from residents, it makes the council out to be more like an enterprise […]

“Bigger in this sense has not meant better,” she said.

Colin Hesse, Marrickville ward Greens councillor said at the forum that larger councils undermine the closeness of elected councillors to the community and allow councillors to focus on strategic planning issues, rather than more local concerns.

He said his former Marrickville council was a “fairly coherent geographic space” and councillors had a high degree of understanding of each of the different suburbs that Marrickville council covered.

He said for example an issue surrounding the Marrickville golf course that has been brought to council is being led by a councillor who resides in Balmain.

Rochelle Porteous, Balmain ward Greens councillor said at the forum that at her former Leichhardt council only $150,000 could be spent without it having to be determined by the council, and under Inner West Council that number is $1.5 million.

“You can imagine how many decisions are being made that as councillors we do not sight,” she said.

She said the sheer quantity of items means that council would not get through the business on the agenda if they had to deal with all of the items under $1.5 million.

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