NSW Office of Local Government axed under restructure

The NSW government will abolish key agencies including the Office of Local Government and the Office of Environment and Heritage under sweeping changes to the structure of the NSW public service.

The Roads and Maritime Service and Jobs NSW will also cease to exist as independent entities.

A memo from the Department of  Premier and Cabinet obtained by Government News on Tuesday revealed he Office of Local Government, along with the Office of Environment and Heritage, will cease to be independent agencies and their functions will be absorbed by a new planning and industry cluster.

The RMS, absorbed into the transport cluster, will also be scrapped as will Jobs NSW, which will be merged into Treasury.

A posting on the NSW Government Gazette confirmed that the legislative powers for environment, heritage and local government had been transferred from the relevant ministers to the minister to the Premier and minister for planning.

“The dramatic changes disempower these Ministers from having any official role in the administration of key legislation in their areas including under the Protection of the Environmental Acts, the Heritage Act and the Local Government Act,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said.

“What is the point of having a Heritage Minister who has no role in administering the Heritage Act?

“The Local Government Minister has also been stripped of power with the Planning Minister now exercised all the powers under the Local Government Act.  This continues a trend of disrespecting Local Government.”

A spokesman for Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Government News there had been changes “to the machinery of government”.

Premier and Cabinet Secretary Tim Reardon said in an email that the realignment would help the public service “effectively serve the new ministry and the government’s priorities”.

“In summary, we will streamline how we operate and collaborate with each other for the benefit of the community,” he said.

In a message to OLG staff, chief executive Tim Hurst said there would be no regional job losses and it would be “business as usual”.

LGNSW seek assurances

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the peak would be seeking assurances from the new local government minister, Shelley Hancock, and the Premier, that local governments would be appropriately resourced within the new cluster.

“We’d hope, for example, that the inclusion into a larger cluster will facilitate real analysis of the massive amounts of data collected by Government, which should be shared with the sector to help them deliver great outcomes for the public good,” she told Government News.

“Local governments welcome a new opportunity to work with the State Government to set housing targets with local governments, not for them – to rebalance planning powers by working in partnership with councils and their neighbourhoods on planning decisions that affect them.”

However she said the appointment of Ms Hancock was a stand-alone Local Government Minister was welcomed and had long been advocated for by LGNSW.

A new cluster structure 

The memo also announced that the structure of the public service will also incorporate the following clusters: Stronger Communities, Customer Service, Health; Premier and Cabinet, Transport, Treasury  and Education.

The following clusters will cease to exist by July 1:  Finance, Services & Innovation; Industry; Planning & Environment; Family and Communities; and Justice.

The Secretaries Board will be expanded in members to accommodate more senior public servants to “effectively drive implementation of the Government’s priorities”.

New appointments under the restructure:

  • Michael Coutts-Trotter – Secretary, Families & Community Services & Justice
  • Jim Betts – Secretary, Planning and Industry
  • Glenn King – Secretary, Customer Service
  • Simon Draper – Chief Executive, Infrastructure Australia

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22 thoughts on “NSW Office of Local Government axed under restructure

  1. We all hope that the State Government and the Local Government amalgamation clustering fussion integration will be more successful than the Northern Beaches Councils exercise.
    What is the expected/projected value added to the State Budget?
    And what is the expected purging and efficiency indicators of the different levels of bureaucracy. More senior public servants OMG ?
    I appreciate your feedback
    Fernando Ogayar

  2. Was this proposed before we voted in the NSW election?? Gobsmacked that the Office of Environment and Heritage is going. Super clusters, like the Department of Home Affairs, have been shown not to be effective and a waste of resources. Just appalled.

    1. If it wasn’t they’ve been quick thinkers . Pity more information isn’t available, particularly in relation to bottom line and state economic estimates.

  3. Under what cluster/structure will we see the State Government plans implemented at local levels?
    The planning and implementation of Master-planned environments around all north-west metro stations has been successfully derailed by local councils.
    What does the Govt have in place that gives them any authority or ability to fulfill their master plans when local Councils have no desire to work with the Government?

  4. Appalling! OLG is not (and should not be) subservient to Planning. Try telling Councillors and Mayors around the state that their total focus is on landuse planning and development. There is so much more to the role of Councils. If this announcement was made pre March 23, we may well have had a very different election result. Another reason why LG should be enshrined in the Australian Constitution.

    1. But this, in a nutshell, this is the challenge.
      I agree that local government is more than planning but planning as managed through councils, including LEPs and DCPs and the Planning approvals process, is a significant part of their remit and is one of the most contentious and conflicted, including the funds it raises through fees and contributions.
      The current process is open to interference of many kinds, often disconnected from economic and population considerations and disconnected from LGA to LGA. the more streamlined, efficient and coordinated the process the more transparent it is able to become.

      1. The task of delivering a new LEP is underpinned by a range of state government requirements. It is an absolute nonsense that councils have a free rein on their LEP. Must satisfy Dept of Planning and in Sydney the Greater Sydney Commission and sign off by the Minister!

    2. Question: From what source is the NSW Government obtaining advice on restructuring State government functions?
      Answer: Subject to confirmation, of course, it must be a private sector entity, with an accounting focus, advising our Premier that large amorphous entities will deliver more than departments with multi-disciplinary teams, focussed on delivering outcomes can achieve.

      1. Can what’s now occurring be linked to the NSW forced council amalgamation saga?
        More community control is what’s required .

  5. It seems the new Government will be changing whose going to be in control of the state planning and development processes to supporters of growth and jobs !

  6. This is an Infrastructure government not people’s government. Well its time for Public Service to slash and burn! To end up like Poles and Wires and the result, the energy prices are so high. Thanks to the privatisation.

  7. I too am absolutely appalled at this action, particularly the Dept. of Environment and Heritage. Madness, even Trump would not do this, perhaps? Climate Change is an issue and environment downsized and heritage is our history. Will we have Old Government House at Parramatta demolished for a stadium? No mention pre-election. Joan Lawrence.

    1. It’s very likely another step in abolishing local councils ( so called local government ) in NSW all together. Regions will be run by commissoners. Whose the back room adviser ?

  8. Bring back the independent Dept. of Environment and Heritage now! NSW people were promised before the election that the Environment would be a priority!! With the abolition of the independent Dept, the Environment has been put LAST!! Wake up NSW Govt and do what the people were promised!!!!!!

  9. Better get active. Join your local community group. Our environment and heritage is in the path of the bulldozers. Get cracking.

  10. It’s the great political con, seen to be doing, but doing nothing apart from job creation for a handful of mates in the government systems.

  11. I am at a loss for words here. I am not against change but not for change sake and nothing else. If I was living in NSW I would pressure the Govt to show how this is going to improve outcomes and service delivery to the benefit of the public. Get them to produce there cost benefit analysis and the report that recommended it and who wrote the report. Get them to tell you when the report and analysis was finalized to judge whether it was pre-or – post election. Start with FOI Requests

  12. This Government cares nothing for the interests of residents or Local Government, its decisions are not based on what is more productive or efficient, its focus is all about delivering bigger profits to their friends in the corporate World, after all that’s the background of the last two Premiers and they have served their masters well. The last two decades will go down in history as the biggest robbery of the public purse.

  13. Under the OLG, ratepayers were provided with no practical means by which they could hold corrupt council managements to account because of the state government’s legislation that, in practice, gave council management the powers of an autocracy/theocracy. There was also no means by which ratepayers could hold councils and management to a account for rating breaches of the NSW Local Government Act 1993, contempt of decisions of the Land and Environment Court of NSW and for rejection of rating directives of the Office of Local Government. Ratepayers’ complaints have been shuffled around between ICAC, Ombudsperson, OLG and the Minister(ess) of Local Government as each played pass the parcel for enforcing rating legislation passed by NSW governments. Now, with a mega-mega-bureaucracy, that absence of a means of holding corrupt councils to account has been solidified. And to make matters for ratepayers even worse, the pre-election Gladys government transferred responsibility for actions to pursue outstanding rates from the court system (too clogged up, apparently) to the very corrupt councils whose actions were the direct cause of ratepayers’ withholding rate payments. Money for pork barrelling sports stadia but not for providing efficient means by which all ratepayers can hold councils and all state bureaucracies and agencies to account.
    Nice to know that NSW is a secular democracy in which government of all of the people, by all of the people for all of the people!

    1. OLG did not professionally deal with corruption/ mal administration by General Managers.
      Does the new structure mean that will be worse or are they going to put in place a more rigorous process to weed out unacceptable conduct.
      History has shown the super departments do not work. Look at DLWC.
      Why do Governments not learn from history?

  14. The Local Government system is rotten through to the core.

    Council administrations are top-heavy with long-serving LG bureaucrats who are without talent or ability, focused on self-preservation and pandering to their petty-political masters/mistresses.

    Council employment is one of the last bastions of old-style public governance, with sloth, cronyism, corruption and conservatism deeper entrenched within a highly-protected and incestuous workforce.

    True reform will require fundamental changes to structures, governance and workplaces and most likely abolition of the sector all together.

    If NSW ratepayers were aware of the vast amounts of money wasted by LG administrators on peripheral projects, consultants and shonky vanity projects the’d all withold rates payments until something was done.

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