NSW Gov’s “Fit for the Future” process erodes democracy and local lifestyle

Pittwater Forever webpageThe Pittwater community is frustrated and angered by the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future (FftF) evaluation process which gives weight to the macho view of “big is better” while eroding our democracy and local lifestyle.

Pittwater residents groups are so incensed by the process that the major 18 have formed an umbrella group, Pittwater Forever, lobbying to keep Pittwater on its present boundaries with no merger.  It also has its own website,  facebook and twitter page.

At the end of April the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) was appointed as the Expert Panel to asses the FftF submissions. In its April 27 media release, IPART Chairman Dr Peter Boxall says a council’s ‘scale and capacity’ is the threshold issue.

Every major criteria in the IPART document for evaluating a council’s “fitness” seems to erodes the people’s voice in favour of the state bureaucracy’s wants for larger, less independent, less local based councils in NSW.

The Pittwater Forever group believes the people, not just of Pittwater but of the whole NSW, have been betrayed and should be enraged with the appointment of IPART to evaluate councils’ FftF submissions.

The Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association (PBWBA)’s Storm Jacklin says the IPART appointment is a mockery to democracy.

“The appointment of IPART, driven by financial outcomes, instead of the appointment of the promised independent panel, completely undermines and disenfranchises the residents,” Mr Jacklin says.

At the Pittwater Council meeting on May 3, the Mayor Jacqui Townsend questioned how IPART will even asses scale and capacity.

“It’s not clear from the methodology how it will be assessed. It appears to be a discretionary assessment to be conducted by IPART,” she explains.

The problems don’t stop there, she continued. It is not just how IPART will judge a council as ‘Unfit’ but what are the consequences of being deemed ‘Unfit’?

“Will the Government force a merger?” Mayor Townsend asks. “This has not been made clear by the Government.”

IPART’s Dr Boxall dosen’t make it any clearer. “Our methodology proposes that in cases where the Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) recommended a merger, councils not proposing a merger in their applications would need to provide a sound argument that it is not the best option in their case,” he says.

Pittwater community groups and Council are now writing to IPART to voice their concerns.

Clareville and Bilgola Plateau Resident Associations (CABPRA) President, David Owen says issues which concern the residents – community, environmental, cultural, independent, local and democratic values – seem not be addressed by the IPART process at all.

 “IPART, driven by “scale and capacity” outcomes, effectively shuts the residents out of any balanced evaluation procedure,” Mr Owen explains.
There is not one service oriented benchmark being used by IPART to evaluate submissions. For example it will not look at customer satisfaction surveys or problem responsiveness.

“The only benchmarks are financial,” he adds. “This makes a real mockery of effective service delivery,”

The IPART process makes no mention or evaluation of the Council’s ability to manage the environment e.g. parks and reserves, coastline, waterways, climate change. A huge concern to Pittwater residents.

Plus there is no mention or evaluation of the Council’s ability to manage other key areas of concern to residents, such as active transport, planning and development, waste management, etc.

It is time for IPART  to switch its main focus on to issues which will really make our councils fitter and stop this damaging talk of amalgamations.

Issues such as how do councils:

  1. Improve customer services,
  2. Use better methods of spending rate payer’s money – looking at best practices elsewhere in Sydney, in other States and around the world,
  3. Encourage a better lifestyle for residents – again looking at best practices,
  4. Protect their natural beauty and heritage,
  5. But at the same time provide diversity in housing and amenities,
  6. Provide better transport, a diversity of transport which allows people who are car-less (such as the young) to be able to easily get around,
  7. Provide better waste management,
  8. Encourage small businesses and start-ups,
  9. Encourage not just physical, but mental and cultural activity amongst residents,
  10. Encourage the community and community organisations to become more involved in their neighbourhoods.

See what the SMH has to say RE: the IPART process.

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