Media Release: LGNSW demands the NSW Government extend time for councils to respond to Review Panel Report

8 January 2014
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) today slammed the NSW Government for imposing such a limiting consultation deadline for councils to respond to the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s final report which was released today. LGNSW is calling on the NSW Premier, the Hon. Barry O’Farrell MP, to extend the consultation period until the end of April 2014.
President of LGNSW, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, said the vast majority of NSW councils do not have their first council meeting for 2014 until February, leaving little to no time for them to properly consider and respond to the NSW Government’s 7 March consultation deadline.
“The Minister’s had the Review Panel’s report for nearly three months; we’ve had it for three minutes!” stated Cr Rhoades.
“If the NSW Government is serious about working with councils to improve the capacity and financial sustainability of Local Government, they need to live up to their end of the Intergovernmental Agreement.”
“There is no document more important for Local Government in NSW than this one, the Premier and Minister Page must provide a consultation timeframe that is suitable for councils and the communities they represent – not an arbitrary date picked by Cabinet.”
“The Report is extremely detailed and complex and there are significant changes in the Review Panel’s recommendations since the last discussion paper, we at Local Government NSW need time to consider the changes and the impact on the sector. Councils also need time to study it and consult with their communities on the numerous changes that have been suggested.”
“Local Government NSW plans to canvass council views in early/mid-March, once Mayors and Councillors have had a chance to discuss the report. We will be holding a series of forums in regional and rural locations as well as the Sydney metropolitan area to listen to our members.”
“Obviously, Local Government’s main concern is council amalgamations. While the report does not support forcibly amalgamating councils, it does provide a very detailed ‘merger’ blueprint for a future state government without the current ‘no forced amalgamations’ policy.”
“The other key issue we believe our member councils will want to discuss are the new structures proposed for Local Government, particularly in rural and regional areas. These include what the Review Panel refers to as Joint Organisations, Rural Councils and Community Boards.”
“These new structures coupled with suggested amalgamations provide complicated solutions to the problems faced in rural NSW, and will need to be examined in great detail.”
“With that said, many councils in NSW face a funding crisis for which there is no easy answer under the present system. We recognise changes need to be made. Aspirational communities demand more and better services, and there is always a reluctance to pay the true cost.”
“There is often a great divide between city and country councils, and we cannot let those who live outside the big cities become second-class citizens through lack of funding, the inability to recruit skilled staff (in some areas), and access to the latest technology.”
“We are no longer simply in the business of rates, roads, and rubbish; we need a Local Government system that is equipped to cope with current and future pressures. This will not be achieved by imposing unfair consultation deadlines on the very sector we are trying to improve.”
Media Enquiries
Cr Keith Rhoades, AFSM President: 0408 256 405
Alexandra Power Media and Communications Manager: 0408 603 093