I’m an Inner West local. My typical weekend involves nipping to Summer Hill for coffee, doing the big shop in Leichhardt and then drinks in Dulwich Hill.
Yet during an entirely unremarkable weekend like this, I will pass over the borders of the three former local government areas of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville. LGAs that once would have had different bureaucracies, different IT systems, different ways of collecting the rubbish even, and yet all covering essentially the same area.
That changed in 2016 when the NSW Government amalgamated the three into one Inner West Council. Since then, $30 million has been spent to create one administration, one IT system and one rubbish collection system among many other things. We also have refurbished community facilities like Ashfield Aquatic Centre and the Dawn Fraser Baths. Initiatives like Leichhardt’s benchtop food scraps bins are now Inner West wide.
But there is a push to stop this progress. At the local elections, residents will be asked to vote on demerging Inner West Council back into the three previous LGAs. I urge you to vote No.
I’m not a party member. I’m not standing for election. I’m just a local resident who thinks it makes sense to have one council. I would rather our councillors concentrate on making our area a better place and to help us recover from COVID-19 than spend time, effort and taxpayers’ money on an issue that is top of mind for very few.
My neighbours aren’t calling for three Inner West mayors rather than one; no one wants their library card to cover fewer libraries; people in Lewisham are not pleading to pay more to use Ashfield pool because if demerger occurred they would be in the wrong LGA. But all these outcomes are possible if a demerger takes place.
A council report found de-amalgamating could cost at least $26 million. On top of the money spent to merge that would mean almost $60 million of your cash spent. And for what?
Resurrected councils could be saddled with new debts leading to increases in rates. Demerging would take years and would involve the suspension of council.
Some demerger supporters seem to suggest our suburbs are each wildly different – that compared to Leichhardt, Ashfield may as well be a different planet and Marrickville a different solar system.
But that’s not the case. The Inner West is a cohesive, inter-connected progressive corner of Sydney with far more that unites than divides us.
A single council means a single strong Inner West voice to government. A single council can make decisions for the whole Inner West community holistically.
My home is the Inner West, from the Balmain coves to the Cooks River, from King St to the Ashfield strip. Now we have one council, it would be barmy to waste time and money tearing that apart. Vote No.
Benedict Brook is an Inner West resident. He has set up a website on de-amalgamation that can be found at oneinnerwest.squarespace.com.