LGSA rejects super council plan

By Rob O'Brien

A plan to create 10 super councils in NSW won't address funding issues and infrastructure backlogs, the Local Government and Shires Association (LGSA) has said.

The NSW Business Chamber launched its plan to replace 41 councils with 10 metropolitan super councils today as part of its 10 Big Ideas to Grow NSW, which also included handing over the state funding of hospitals to the Federal Government.

LGSA Vice President Cr Allan Ezzy, said that the plan to create super councils presumed that “bigger is automatically better”, but said the organisation supported calls from the Chamber to give councils more powers, better financing and paid full-time councillors.

“Local Government is severely under-resourced and facing a huge financial crisis,” he said.

“Decreasing the size of Sydney metropolitan councils into ten super councils won’t make these problems go away."

Launching its 10 Big Ideas to Grow NSW, CEO of NSW Business Chamber Stephen Cartwright said that each of the ideas would help move the state forwards.

“For too long, the debate over the performance of NSW has focused on negativity and complaint. We want to shift the debate to one that focuses on opportunities and solutions," he said.

“We have set out to identify the ideas and solutions that can help NSW reclaim its place as the economic engine room of Australia."

Cr Ezzy said that amalgamating councils wouldn't remove the unfair system of rate pegging, 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 jump straight to the idea of super councils we need to address these problems, and the only way to do that is with more funding from the State and Federal Government and a restoration of council powers that have been gradually eroded,” he said.

Other proposals launched by the Chamber included: Establishing a Commission of Audit – staffed by local, interstate and overseas experts from the public and private sectors; abolishing the Office of State Revenue – and commission the ATO to administer and collect NSW taxes on behalf of NSW; handing hospital funding over to the Federal Government; and, encouraging business and government relocations to regional NSW through the establishment of a $250 million Develop Regional NSW Fund.

Mr Cartwright said that the Chamber’s proposals made good economic sense.

“These proposals, in a monetary sense, are relatively inexpensive or will pay for themselves over time. They are actually less expensive than the cost of missed opportunity that comes from doing nothing.

“What these ideas do require is a willingness to question the status quo, a capacity to challenge vested interests and a desire to make decisions based on the broader public good.

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