IPART “Dumbing down the process” – SMH

The man who drew up the blueprint to merge 41 Sydney councils into about 14 has accused the NSW government and the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority of effectively dumbing down his report’s recommendations and trying to rush council mergers.

Graham Sansom’s submission to the regulatory authority, critiquing its methodology, accuses it of overlooking his reform objectives and instead relying too heavily on financial ratios to assess the health of councils and whether they should merge.

In a separate submission, the government- owned TCorp, which has regularly done financial analysis of local government, said the “pass/ fail” approach being adopted by the regulatory authority on key financial indicators was too simplistic and inconsistent with the advice T-Corp had been giving councils for years about improving their financial position.

The government has asked the authority to assess proposals from the 41 Sydney councils either to merge or go it alone, and to declare them either “fit” or “not fit” for the future. Submissions from the councils are due at the end of this month and have prompted a flurry of merger talks.

The authority says the threshold test will be “scale and capacity”, a requirement that many councils see as a thinly veiled measure to force amalgamations among smaller councils regardless of their performance.

It is now considering whether it will declare a population target that councils must meet to be ” fit”.

Now Mr Sansom has joined the increasingly volatile debate saying the regulatory authority has confused the goal of building more sustainable units of government with achieving financial ratios.

Read more in the Sydney Morning Hearld, June 2, 2015

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