NSW Premier Mike Baird is keeping a tight grip on the state’s nineteen new councils, insisting they submit constant progress reports and list their achievements since their creation on May 12.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet originally told councils to report weekly but dropped this back to fortnightly after the first two weeks.
Councils are being urged to report their successes, with a particular focus on highlighting the savings and benefits of council mergers.
The Department asks councils to list their “key achievements – outward facing and their benefits to the community. E.g. expanded services, faster turnaround times, less red tape.”
Councils are asked to specify how these wins have been communicated to the public, whether via the mayoral column, website, a letter to ratepayers or on social media.
Although the Department presses councils to list the savings since mergers it adds “at this point we are not seeking quantification of the actual value of each item.”
There is a fair bit of other detail required from new councils. The Department also presses administrators to list the federal and state members they have spoken to, what media they have done and to list their top five highlights and challenges for the week, as well as their top five priorities for the following week.
Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose, who sourced the departmental documents via a Government Information (Public Access) request, said the government was desperate to prove that mergers were a good idea.
“Instead of reporting good news stories to their bosses the Premier and Deputy Premier, council administrators should be more concerned with reporting back to local residents,” Mr Primrose said.
“The government said that merging councils would increase efficiencies, but how efficient is it to force hand-picked administrators to write good news stories every two weeks?
“A real good news story would be that all council elections would be held this year, instead of autocratic rule staying in place for forcibly merged councils until September 2017.”
Mr Primrose also criticised the fact NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole had already announced millions in savings from council mergers, despite councils not being asked to quantify savings.
He said the savings announced were unclear because it was not stated over what time frame they would be achieved and whether they were capital or recurrent, net or gross.
There had been no detail provided about the cost of redundancies or forward projections of costs for implementing mergers, including merging computer and asset management systems.
“This again is just another instance of magical thinking by Mike Baird and his Minister. Mike Baird and Troy Grant are looking for good news stories and clearly don’t care if there is any evidence to back them up,” Mr Primrose said.
“Instead of focusing on better service delivery, the Government is looking to sell their ideological agenda about forced council mergers and privatisation.
“Everyone knows these forced council mergers are a dog’s breakfast.”
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