A business case detailing the process of de-amalgamation for the Inner West Council (IWC) is receiving heavy criticism from councillors and residents, after it was passed for public exhibition at a recent IWC meeting.
Earlier in the year, the Inner West Councils (IWC) General Manager Peter Gainsford commissioned consulting firm Morrison Low to develop the business case for the demerger of the IWC back to Ashfield, Marrickville, and Leichhardt Councils.
A motion put forward by Councillor Mark Drury and Councillor Philippa Scott to put the draft business case up for public exhibition was passed 8 vs 7, with Labor councillors voting for, and Independents and Greens voting against.
Inner West Councillor John Stamolis recently issued a statement titled “Inner West Council Demerger Report Must Be Scrapped”. Cr Stamolis said that he believes the report contains data with huge margins for error, and that it is simply unusable by the public.
“Major decisions should not be made on the basis of this report” Cr Stamolis said.
“Before any data like this is released it needs to be reviewed by experts, however, Council just tosses this report out to the public without any care.”
Cr Stamolis says that a previous de-merger report prepared by Morrison Low was flawed, and its financial predictions proved to be inaccurate.
“If ever there was a good reason to demerge, just look at the way Council is behaving, trying to ignore and dismiss the voice of its own community.”
Member of local group Residents for De-amalgamation Pip Hinman also questions Morrison Low as the right choice for the business case.
She says that Morrison Low needs to consult with “local government experts” to ensure the business case is usable.
“Instead of putting the business case brief out to tender, the IWC paid Morrison Low for what appears to be a hasty rework of its anti-demerger case from last year.”
IWC Labor Councillor Mark Drury says Morrison Low is a “reputable organisation”
Cr Mark Drury, who voted in favor of the business case, said that the Inner West Council staff chose the Morrison Low to do the business case, not Councillors.
“The staff have explained publicly that they chose Morrison-Lowe because it was a reputable organisation and they had done work for and knew Inner West Council and its predecessors.”
Inner West Labor Councillor Mark Drury. Photo: innerwestlabor.org.
“I observe that Morrison Low prepared the business cases for Ashfield, Marrickville, and Leichhardt against being amalgamated in 2015″ Cr Drury said.
“I’d encourage everyone with an interest in the issue to read the business case and provide council with their comments.”
The General Manager of IWC has previously dismissed concerns that the independent consultancy firm tasked with building a business case for the IWC demerger will skew its assumptions based on a previous cost-benefit report.
The business case will be up for public exhibition for 28 days. At an August IWC meeting, officers will have prepared a further report outlining the outcomes of the community engagement process along with the final business case for Council’s consideration.
Residents continue to fight for viable demerger
Residents for De-amalgamation is joining with the state-wide NSW Demerger Alliance to hold a protest in front of NSW Parliament on August 9.
Hinman says the protest is to “add pressure to the NSW government to listen to communities across the state who want to return the local to council”.
The group announced in a Facebook post today that Balmain MP Jamie Parker would be attending the protest in support. Hinman says that “pro-demerger MPs, councillors and affected residents” will also be in attendance at the event.