Local Government NSW President, Cr Keith Rhoades has called the NSW Government’s “fit for the future” a mockery of fair process in a letter he has sent to Mayors, Councillors and General Managers.
Here is a copy of his letter:
Dear Mayors, Councillors and General Managers
As most members will know by now, only last Friday the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority (IPART) released its final methodology for assessing councils’ “fitness”, leaving just 15 working days for councils to complete their submissions. Giving councils such a short amount of time to ensure their submissions respond appropriately to the final methodology, as well as community wishes, makes a mockery of fair process.
The Fit for the Future (FFTF) timeframes have always been deeply problematic. With submissions due on June 30 and the final report due on 16 October, IPART has less than one day per council to consider detailed assessments and make recommendations. This is hardly enough time to make important assessments that will shape the future of local government and our communities across the entire State. LGNSW issued a media release on this topic last week.
While the final IPART methodology is an improvement on the consultation draft it is very disappointing that it will still use the Independent Panel’s preferred options as a starting point to assess scale and capacity. IPART has addressed the issue of the 28-day exhibition requirement by “encouraging councils to submit merger proposals even if they have not fulfilled this requirement”.
As I’ve said before, LGNSW is not opposed to amalgamations per se. We support voluntary amalgamations, but we do not support forced amalgamations. For many members, amalgamation makes no sense. Their communities do not support it and there is plenty of evidence that suggests it may actually cost their ratepayers.
Also, a reminder that the Government has stated that the June 30 deadline for FFFT submissions will not shift, despite the Legislative Council Select Committee Inquiry into the process. Don’t forget, too, submissions to the Parliamentary Inquiry are due by 5 July. We urge you to get community groups involved in these processes and are currently developing some resources to help you do so. LGNSW has also collated some final guidance notes for councils putting the finishing touches to their FFTF submissions.
Last Friday the LGNSW Board met. The packed agenda included discussion on advocacy priorities and recent submissions (to: the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into the Leasing of the Electricity Infrastructure, the Senate Inquiry Into Stormwater, the National Parks and Wildlife Service on the Expansion of National Parks and Reserves in NSW, the Commonwealth Home Support program, the National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme, the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Amendment (Heaters and Fireplaces) Regulation 2015; and the Waste Less, Recycle More Education Strategy). Copies of all LGNSW submissions are available in the policy section of the LGNSW website.
This week Chief Executive Donna Rygate and I continued our one-on-one meetings with members by visiting Hornsby Shire, The Hills Shire and Parramatta City councils. This morning I addressed the Country Mayors Association in Sydney. It was good to see so many mayors from regional and rural NSW in attendance. Naturally, reform was the topic of the day. On Sunday Regional Vice President Bruce Miller, Donna and I head to Canberra for the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) Board meeting where a key topic for discussion will be the progress of the national Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) campaign. Please continue to provide case studies on how these affect your communities. These real stories have an impact.
Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM
LOCAL GOVERNMENT NSW