Fit for the Future? Fit for the dustbin.David Shoebridge MLC, NSW Greens spokesperson for Local Government
The Greens NSW are committed to grassroots democracy. This means we support local councils being active, vibrant and genuinely local. This means we won’t support the Coalition’s ‘Fit For the Future’ package which seeks to amalgamate councils across the state. The package is essentially using financial blackmail to push for forced amalgamations. On too many occasions the Coalition government has sought to silence local voices and sell democracy to the highest corporate bidder. Forced amalgamations, bigger bureaucracies and less democracy is not the answer for NSW local government. Local government must be kept local. What are they key issues with Fit for the Future?
1. The council assessment process has been skewed from the start
The essential pre-requisite that the government has set for the so-called ‘fitness’ of metropolitan councils is having a minimum of 250,000 residents. Given that the vast majority of metropolitan councils do not have populations that come anywhere close to that number, the proposal process is setting councils up to fail and forced to amalgamate.
A council with 250,000 residents has lost its local flavour and will become just another anonymous layer of bureaucracy with councillors out of touch with the residents and community they have been elected to represent.
2. Financial blackmail
If councils don’t amalgamate the Liberal party plans to punish them financially by capping their rates revenue and refusing them financial assistance.
Years of cost shifting from state and federal governments and decades of rate pegging have left local councils struggling to provide basic infrastructure and improved services. If the state government was genuinely interested assisting in assisting local councils they would increase the financial autonomy of local councils and put an end to rate pegging rather than turn them into regional super-councils run like corporations and far removed from the community.
3. Amalgamations do not work
When amalgamations have been forced on locals in other states like Victoria and Queensland, rates have gone up, services have stagnated and residents end up less connected to the councillors who represent them.
In Queensland a number of councils have even begun the expensive process of de-amalgamation, with the Queensland Government bearing the cost of this process.
Merging two financially struggling councils only makes the problem bigger, councils need financial autonomy not forced mergers.
What can you do?
Take action and write to the Minister for Local Government letting him know that you want more local democracy in your area, not less: email@example.com
Contact your local council and let them know that you do not support Fit for the Future and forced amalgamations.
Share on Facebook and Twitter to send the message that you want to keep local government local.