Amalgamations won’t fix resourcing, says LGSA

SYDNEY: Amalgamating Sydney’s councils won’t make the problem of resourcing go away, the Local Government and Shires Associations have (LGSA) said.

In a response to suggestions made by the Sydney Business Chamber that the city’s councils could be reduced from 42 to 12, the President of the Local Government Association Cr Genia McCaffery said that amalgamations would not fix the problem of resourcing.

“Decreasing the number of Sydney councils won’t necessarily make the problem of under-resourced councils go away,” she said.

“It won’t remove the burden of an unfair rate pegged system, inadequate tax allocations, a cost shifting bill that totaled $431 million in 07/08 or an infrastructure renewal backlog that grows by $500 million each year.

“Before we start talking about amalgamation or reform we need to address these problems, and the only way to do that is with more funding from the State and Federal Government.

“If you amalgamate two under-resourced councils without considering all the other factors, all you will end up with is a larger under-resourced council.”

President of the Shires Association Cr Bruce Miller said NSW councils were already investigating ways to modernise the sector.

“There are many options to consider – electoral, structural, functional, industrial and organisational,” he said.

“And if some councils are eventually amalgamated, there are a host of things to consider. Rural and regional councils for example, have a smaller population but a larger geographic area to maintain.

“Residents might have to travel more than 100km simply to attend a council meeting to have their say on local issues.

“We want to work with the State Government to ensure the best possible changes are made with the best outcomes for our local communities.”

A recent report by the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia (ACEA) also called for a consolidation of local urban councils in the Sydney basin, reducing the total number of councils from 42 councils to just 11.

The ACEA recommended that the Department of Local Government be abolished and its functions merged into a new super-department of planning and local government. LGSA said it was a sensible idea but unlikely to succeed.

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