Inner West Independent

Labor and de-amalgamation lead Inner West election despite disconnect

Labor has taken a cautious approach to the topic of de-amalgamation over the past year, however if Labor wins a sixth seat on council, the party will play an important role in endorsing the demerger. Photo: Creative Commons

By EVA BAXTER

Labor is currently leading in votes in the inner west local government election, and the poll on de-amalgamation shows the majority of residents are in favour of a demerger, despite Labor councillors from the outgoing council taking a cautious approach to the de-merger over the past year.

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.

In May, Independent councillors Macri and Stamolis tabled a motion proposing council ‘use the opportunity presented by the recent amendments to the Local Government Act to investigate de-amalgamation of Inner West Council and to prepare a report …’ and, ‘take a poll of electors on the question of whether the inner west Local Government Area should be de-amalgamated so as to restore the former local government areas of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville and hold the poll on the day of the 2021 NSW local government elections.’

Labor councillors Byrne, Drury, Iskander, Mckenna, and York voted against the motion.

Byrne told the Independent in June he was “fearful” about what the consequences of de-amalgamation could be.

“There will be costs in the tens of millions of dollars … I don’t trust the government to fund that, they didn’t fund the amalgamation properly, why would they fund the de-amalgamation properly?”

Philippa Scott, candidate and incoming councillor for Leichhardt ward told the Independent Labor and de-amalgamation both leading in popularity is an unusual set of results, but that Labor fully intends to respect and listen to the result.

“We will respect the views of the poll and the survey results, and we will put those to the state government, and it will ultimately be their decision about what happens next.”

Will of the inner west

Councillor John Stamolis told the Independent what will happen now is that council will endorse the will of the people and submit it to the state government.

According to the Local Government Act, a proposal for de-amalgamation is referred to the boundaries commission which will conduct an inquiry and make a report recommending its support or rejection.

If the local government 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.

“I’m pleased to be one of the two Independents that has read our community very well five and a half years on into the merger. We read the mood of our people, we read their feelings, we read how they felt about being local and the result was decisive,” said Stamolis.

The Greens have said they are committed to presenting a strong business case to the NSW government after the community showed support for de-amalgamation, with a majority voting yes to demerge.

The Greens have announced their candidate for mayor as candidate and incoming councillor for Balmain Kobi Shetty.

Scott said, “the Labor team have been transparent the entire time about Darcy being a candidate for mayor.

“Who Labor supports for mayor and deputy mayor will only be able to be determined by our caucus and our caucus is not fully formed as yet because we don’t have the full results, but when we do, then that caucus will determine who is the Labor candidate for mayor and deputy mayor.”

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