‘Un­fit’ given ultimatum

COUN­CILS MUST MERGE OR WILL BE MERGED

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - SPECIAL REPORT | THE FUTURE OF OUR COUNCILS - Adam Bell

PRE­MIER Mike Baird has set a dead­line of Novem­ber 18 for the ma­jor­ity of coun­cils in Syd­ney that have failed a financial sus­tain­abil­ity test.

The IPART re­port found 71 per cent of metropoli­tan coun­cils were “not fit for the fu­ture”, in­clud­ing Black­town Coun­cil.

How­ever, the coun­cil was not ear­marked for merger. Pen­rith Coun­cil was deemed “fit for the fu­ture”.

Pre­mier Mike Baird said coun­cils that failed the test had a month to come back to Gov­ern­ment with vol­un­tary merger pro­pos­als.

“For many coun­cils this is the fi­nal op­por­tu­nity to do the right thing for the fu­ture of their com­mu­ni­ties,” he said. IPART found merg­ers would free up close to $2 bil- lion over 20 years for ratepay­ers, $1.95 bil­lion of that in the metropoli­tan area.

It said most coun­cils la­belled un­fit did not have suf­fi­cient scale and ca­pac­ity.

With only nine coun­cils vol­un­teer­ing to merge, the pre­mier made it clear the Gov­ern­ment will act to force their hand.

Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Paul Toole said larger coun­cils had greater scale and ca­pac­ity to part­ner other lev­els of gov­ern­ment on in­fras­truc­ture projects.

He said the ar­gu­ment that a lo­cal com­mu­nity’s iden­tity was di­min­ished by merg­ers was not borne out by a merger of his coun­cil in re­gional NSW when he was mayor of Bathurst.

“We will guar­an­tee re­duced red tape, more sta­ble rates, bet­ter ser­vices and in­fras­truc­ture and lo­cal rep- re­sen­ta­tion Mr Toole said.

The IPART re­port said the merg­ers rec­om­mended by the ear­lier re­port from Gra­ham San­som were used as “the pre­ferred start­ing point” for its anal­y­sis.

The In­de­pen­dent Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Re­view Panel pro­posed 31 merger op­tions across Syd­ney. For ex­am­ple, the pro­posed merger of Rand­wick, Waverley, Wool­lahra, Botany Bay and the City of Syd­ney would save $416 mil­lion over the next two decades.

The pro­posed merger of Auburn, Hol­royd, Par­ra­matta and part of Ryde and the Hills would save $254 mil­lion. Only two merger pro­pos­als were vol­un­tar­ily sub­mit­ted in Syd­ney. Both were as­sessed “fit”. Twen­ty­nine coun­cils in Syd­ney were deemed “not fit”.

main­tained,”

Black­town Coun­cil was as­sessed as “not fit” be­cause it did not demon­strate it met the financial cri­te­ria over­all

How­ever, it sat­is­fied the “scale and ca­pac­ity” cri­te­ria

Ac­cord­ing to IPART, the coun­cil could im­prove financial per­for­mances by re­duc­ing costs and in­creas­ing rev­enues

A fac­tor in Black­town’s per­for­mance were de­pre­ci­a­tion ex­penses, due to grow be­cause of “the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of new as­sets to sup­port pop­u­la­tion growth”. IPART said ac­cu­mu­la­tion of as­sets is “nor­mal for a growth coun­cil”

Black­town is the largest coun­cil by pop­u­la­tion in NSW

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