Pittwater Council is fit for the future. It is strong, local and independent. KPMG has proven this in its report.
Merging with another council or growing too large in any form could jeopardise this fitness – not improve it.
As with any fitness regime, the NSW Government’s local government reform package “Fit for the Future” needs to stay focused on what makes a council fit. Instead it has diverted down a track, which has proven disastrous to so many** before it, of focusing on size.
The talk of amalgamating 41 Sydney Councils down to 20 or even 15 will not make local councils look at ways of becoming fitter, but will only make them fight off amalgamation as we are seeing in the fitter councils. Or grab at amalgamation as we are seeing in the larger, mainly less-fit councils.
At CABPRA (Clareville and Bilgola Plateau Residents’ Association), as with many community groups, we want our local council, Pittwater, to be strong, local and independent. This is the ability the council has:
- to connect with its community, understand the local issues and environment and come up with SMART solutions – Being Local
- to look at the bigger picture and see a vision for the future. To works well with its community, other councils, ROCs (Regional Organisation of Councils) and the State Government in collaboration to come up with Best Practice solutions, in a financially sound way – Being Strong
- to not be swayed by people, organisations or political parties with vested-interests, interests which are not in the community’s best interest – Being Independent
CABPRA believes Pittwater Council is fit. It is the ideal size at approximately 62,000 residents. It has room to become fitter and to do this, and to stay fit, it needs to work at it. However to return to an obese council by merging with Warringah and, maybe even, Manly Councils, as the State Government is suggesting is NOT the answer.
We agree with Pittwater Mayor, Jacqueline Townsend when she said: “One mega council will undermine our community to continue as contemporary land managers, protecting our natural and built assets.
“It was only 22 years ago that Pittwater people fought for the right to have a council of its own. It would be an absolute tragedy if that right was removed,” she added.
Mayor Townsend said she didn’t want to see residents left wondering: “Why did we fight so hard in the first place? The reasons for succession in 1992 are still relevant today”.
Around the world (click on the red links):
- From the Frontier Centre in Canada – Big Government Not Better “The economy of scale principle does not apply to governments because governments are pyramid organizations built on layer upon expanding layer of management as the organization grows. The council at the top of the pyramid is not what determines the cost of government. That cost is determined by the distance separating the chief administrative officer from the snowplow operator. (or Pittwater’s case the beach-raker operator)”
- From TDB Advisory in New Zealand to the Minister of Local Government – “Governance Options for Wellington and Wairarpa Regions: an Economic and Financial Assessment” research show the ideal financial size for local government councils is somewhere between 40,000 and 71,000 residents
- From USA – Reassessing Local Government Amalgamation where the Executive Summary finds:
- “An analysis of US Census data indicates that higher expenditures per capita are generally associated with larger municipal units and that consolidated governments are more costly than governments typified by multiple government units.
- “Many of the world’s largest and most successful urban areas have numerous local government units. For example, the Paris area has more than 1,300 municipal governments and the Tokyo area has more than 225.”
Closer to home (click on the red links):
- From Queensland – Strong interest in de-amalgamation “Local Government Minister David Crisafulli has received 19 proposals from communities interested in resurrecting their former Councils. Mr Crisafulli said the process was a valuable opportunity for residents still hurting from the forced amalgamations in 2008 to gauge the mood of their community.”
- Also from Queensland – “Four Queensland councils de-merged earlier this year following forced amalgamations under Anna Bligh’s government in 2008, when the number of Sunshine State councils was reduced from 157 to 73. Such decisions can be expensive: it’s estimated the Noosa council’s secession from Sunshine Coast Council will cost at least $10 million of an estimated operating budget of $65 million.”
- From Victoria – “.. amalgamations are not the only tool for improving metropolitan governance, citing the recently signed Victorian State-Local Government Agreement.”
**It becomes an election issues.
- In Queensland, Anna Bligh’s forced amalgamations saw her lose office in an historic landslide. The new Queensland Government is now having to consider the expensive process of de-amalgamation.
- In Victoria, amalgamations saw Jeff Kennett booted from office in a shock election result.
- The Colin Barnett Government in WA is struggling with its popularity over proposed amalgamations
- And on Feb 8 2015, Perth Councils voted against mergers, defeating WA’s planned amalgamations.
- In Sydney it is huge issue – see:
Councils’ stances on proposed amalgamations
See IPART submissions plus this table from the SMH, June 29, 2015