“We found that many of the Fit for the Future measures are unreliable and we therefore called on the NSW Government to withdraw its statements that 71 per cent of Sydney councils and 56 per cent of regional councils are ‘unfit’ for the future. We also recommended that the Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations other than in exceptional circumstances,” said The Chair of the Upper House Inquiry committee on “Fit for the Future”, the Hon Paul Green MLC.
“This committee has listened to councils and other stakeholders around the state and we were concerned that what began as a consultative approach to reform, driven by both the State Government and the sector itself, has descended into a rushed and flawed process, which has focused too much on council amalgamations.”
The Committee made the following unanimous Recommendations:
- That the NSW Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations of local
- councils (see R 11).
- That the NSW Government make Joint Organisations for regional cooperation available to all councils in NSW (see R 16).
- That the NSW Government work with local government on a statutory model for Joint
- Organisations based on the Hunters Hill, Ryde and Lane Cove model as a cooperative and consensus model for local council reform in Metropolitan Sydney (see R 17).
- That the NSW Government consider amending the electoral legislation to introduce donation and spending caps for candidates at local government elections (see R 15).
The Committee made the following unanimous findings:
- That the Boundaries Commission needs to become more independent and its process strengthened (see F 7).
- That a number of recommendations of the ILGRP that were unrelated to structural reform should have been implemented before considering amalgamation (see F 3).
- That IPART‘s appointment was too late in the process, the deadline for council proposals was too short, the methodology prescribed by the Government was too restrictive and rushed (F 2&4).
Other Recommendations and Findings:
- unfair and misleading labelling of councils as ‘unfit’, failure to remove rate – pegging and cost – shifting before considering structural change, IPART not having the demonstrated skills or capacity to assess the overall ‘fitness’ of councils,and
- ‘scale and capacity’ is a flawed criterion.