Sydney needs council amalgamation: business

By Ju Yeon Jung

Latest research commissioned by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce has found Sydney had too many councillors with cost-ineffective planning systems, highlighting a need for reform.

The KPMG report into the efficiencies of the current local government arrangements showed Sydney was over-governed, with each councillor representing 8,000 people, while Melbourne and Brisbane had one councillor for every 13,000 and 39,000 people respectively.

Also apparent was inconsistency in electoral representation across regions. Each councillor in Blacktown Council represented nearly 19,000 residents, while Woollahra Council had one councillor for 3,500 residents.

This uneven distribution was leading to significant inequalities throughout local government, with well-established inner-urban areas generally better sourced than fast-growing outer-urban communities.

The report said larger councils were also more efficient in the processing of development application, resulting in lower labour costs and operating expenses per capita.

The Chamber’s executive director, Patricia Forsythe said it was now imperative to overhaul the council structure in order to secure long-term financial sustainability and optimum service delivery levels.

“NSW has fallen behind other states and international jurisdictions which have undertaken significant local government reform.

“Given the financial position of the NSW Government, we’ve argued the case for public sector reform as a means of delivering efficiency savings for taxpayers,” Mrs Forsythe said.

Since the 1970s, Sydney’s local government had largely remained unchanged, notwithstanding a dramatic increase in population of over one million and creation of new suburbs.

The Chamber argued council amalgamations should take place before the next local government elections, following community consultation.

It also said the NSW Government should define an appropriate scale for local councils in alignment with communities of interest and the principles of the Metro Strategy

“Business is concerned that our governance structure impedes economic growth and is out of step with leading cities,” Mrs Forsythe said.

“For too long the structure of Sydney’s local government has acted as a barrier to improved operating performance, regional planning and the competitiveness of Sydney as a global city.

“Local government should not be exempt from public sector reform,” she said.

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