Reform - Fit for the Future
In May 2016 the NSW Government subsequently announced the amalgamation of a number of councils across NSW. The amalgamation process that many councils are now undergoing will present many challenges over coming months and years. While LGNSW has never supported forced amalgamations, our role in supporting members has also required that we prepare for the eventuality and assist members during this period of change. LGNSW will continue to hold the NSW Government accountable, including for its commitments to fund amalgamating councils to assist with costs.
Joint Organisations Model
The model and proposals contained in Joint Organisations: Towards a new model for regional collaboration are broadly consistent with recommendations contained in our previous submission on the JO Emerging Directions paper in October 2015.
The NSW Government intends to roll out JOs to all non-metropolitan councils during 2017.
Guidelines on Stronger Communities Fund
Guidelines on planning functions for merging councils
Post-amalgamation proclamation fact sheets
LGNSW has produced the following fact sheets for mayors and councillors, general managers, and council staff affected by a council merger:
An online web-based Amalgamation Toolkit is available on our web site to assist councils with the amalgamation process. The toolkit is designed for use by leaders, managers and working groups.
A key component is the Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change. This was developed by LGNSW in 2015 to help members manage workplace issues that will arise in the face of the reform process.
In addition, LGNSW has been offering workshops at various locations around the state to support newly merged councils. Details are available on our Learning and Events page.
Council amalgamations proceed
On 12 May 2016, the NSW Government proclaimed 19 new councils to replace 42 existing councils, with several additional amalgamation proposals pending. The NSW Government’s website contains a full list of proclamations and related information. See LGNSW Media Release for President Keith Rhoades’ response.
An administrator, interim general manager and, in most cases, one or two deputy general managers, have been appointed to each new council. The administrator of each new council will also select representatives for an Implementation Advisory Group and a Local Representation Committee. Former mayors and councillors who participated in the expression of interest process may be invited to be members of these bodies.
The 19 new councils came into effect at the time of proclamation.
The Premier announced in-principle support for nine other amalgamations but has not yet acted on these proposals. He also announced that a number of amalgamation proposals would not proceed.
The proclamations also stipulate the number of councillors and wards for each new council. Where wards have been created, those ward boundaries have already been released, and this information can be downloaded from the Stronger Councils website.
The Government has said it will provide up to $5 million dollars to each new regional council and up to $10 million to new metropolitan councils, to assist with amalgamation costs. New councils will also be eligible for up to $15 million to fund new investment in community infrastructure, through the Stronger Communities Fund.
New councils do not go to election until 9 September 2017.
No Forced Amalgamations
‘Fix the Funding First’
LGNSW has long maintained there are systemic flaws in the funding system for Local Government, both in NSW and at a national level. These will not be rectified by simply amalgamating councils. LGNSW says 'Fix the Funding First'. LGNSW therefore continues to call for reforms to the financial framework for the sector - an end to rate pegging, fewer rate exemptions, reform of regulated fees and charges, an end to cost shifting, and a fair go in direct funding from the Commonwealth.
Membership on Ministerial Advisory Group
- Transition period following proclamations (PDF, 142KB)
- Proposed Freeze of Rating Structures and SRV Applications for Merging Councils (PDF, 166KB)
- Issues arising from first meeting of MAG Working Group on the Local Government Act Review (PDF, 134KB).
- IPART FFTF Final Report - LGNSW Response - Comments and Critique (PDF, 281KB)
- Principles & Process for Considering New Merger Proposals (PDF, 146KB)
- Financial Support for Small Rural & Regional Councils Principles to Guide IPART when Seeking Additional FFTF Information from Councils
- Criteria and Benchmarks – Guidance for the Panel
- Status of Rural Councils
- The timeframe and methodology of proposed Expert Advisory Panel
- Treasury Corporation (TCorp) methodology and FFTF criteria and benchmarks
- Local Water Utilities
- Composition and authority of proposed Expert Advisory Panel
LGNSW gives evidence at Parliamentary inquiry on FFTF
LGNSW gave evidence at the first Public Hearing (27 July) of the NSW Legislative Council's Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government in NSW. The LGNSW Opening Statement restated LGNSW's opposition to forced amalgamation and outlined the systemic flaws in the funding model for Local Government.
LGNSW also made a comprehensive submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into FFTF, calling on the Government to fix the funding issues first, before forcing council amalgamations.
The Inquiry report was released its report in on 29 October, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Baird Government’s Fit for the Future process and calling on the Government to cease its plans to force council mergers.
LGNSW Member Support
19 August - International Perspectives on Amalgamation – Focus on Finance and Governance
July - August - Transitioning merging teams - Merged councils are building their new identity. The merging of teams who performed similar roles in the former councils is a cornerstone in this process, and this workshop will assist with team-building knowledge to give teams in the merged organisation the greatest chance of success.
Previous workshops in 2016:
March - June - Managing Change and Uncertainty
Feb - April Managing Workplace Reform
In 2015, LGNSW held a number of programs in response to Local Government reform. These were:
2015 Local Government Finance Summit “Fix the Funding First” (August 2015) - This summit identified new solutions to address current inequities and place Local Government on a sound footing to provide stronger communities for the future.
Joint Organisations: Emerging Directions in Regional Collaboration (September 2015) - To assist all councils to better understand the proposed new JO model and to formulate their opinions on the content of the Emerging Directions paper.
A series of FFFT Proposal ‘Bootcamps’ to assist councils preparing their FFTF proposals. The six bootcamp sessions had over 167 registrations in all. Papers and presentations from these workshops are available on our Resources and Links page.
A two-day roundtable held in March 2015 which examined research into the pros and cons of amalgamations and shared some lessons from a number of frontline experiences in both NSW and interstate.
Papers from this roundtable, including a background paper (PDF, 1.1MB) prepared by LGNSW, contain information on issues and lessons learned from past experience and research into council mergers. These are available on the Resources and Links page.
Legal processes around amalgamations
LGNSW has compiled a range of resources to guide councils through the implementation phase of FFTF.
Emerging Directions Paper
Current Local Government Reviews
IPART Review of Regulatory & Compliance Burdens
In April 2016 IPART completed a review of Local Government Regulatory Burdens. LGNSW made two submissions to this review:
August 2015 - LGNSW submission (PDF, 680KB) to IPART's issues paper ; and
February 2016 - LGNSW submission (PDF, 636KB) to IPART’s draft report.
IPART Draft Report, released in January 2016, contained 49 draft recommendations. Most are consistent with those sought by LGNSW and councils in their submissions. However, there are some of significant recommendations that will require further analysis and consultation with the sector. The Government has not yet published a response to IPART’s final report which was submitted to the Minister for Local Government in April.
Review of LG Legislation
Consultation on Phase 1 of the Review of the Local Government Act 1993 occurred between mid January and mid March 2016, and the Office of Local Government (OLG) has indicated its intention for the legislation to be into (and perhaps through) Parliament by June. Read more about LGNSW’s response to this review on the Local Government Review page.
IPART Review of Local Government Rating System
IPART is reviewing the Local Government rating system, which was one of the recommendations of the Independent Local Government Review Panel. Terms of reference for the review were issued in December 2015. The review process includes public consultation, an interim report to the government in mid-2016, and a final report in December 2016.
LGNSW was a member of the panel at the IPART Rating Review Public Forum on the 26th April 2016. LGNSW also made a comprehensive submission to IPART (PDF, 454KB) in May 2016.LGNSW will be responding to the IPART interim report on the rate path freeze when it is released with the NSW Government’s response in mid July 2016. LGNSW we will be making a further submission to IPART on the release of the draft report in August 2016..
Far West Initiative
Resources and Links