‘Unfit’ given ultimatum
COUNCILS MUST MERGE OR WILL BE MERGED
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”.
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