The Greens NSW welcome the recommendations of the Local government review panel to increase financial autonomy of local councils by ending rate pegging and recasting financial grants but oppose the long term agenda of the panel to merge metropolitan and regional councils against the wishes of local residents.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge said:
“There are many recommendations in the report, such as more flexible regional government structures and ending rate pegging, that are to be welcomed, but the focus on creating metropolitan super councils is misguided.
“The fact is that 86 per cent of Sydney metropolitan councils have sound finances so there is no economic case to fundamentally restructure them.
“The move to bigger, less representative, local councils is far more about ideology than common sense.
“Whether it is in the regions or in metropolitan areas, the Greens believe that local residents must have the right to determine the future of their local council and if there is a strong case for amalgamations then that must be decided democratically.
“The amalgamations proposed in the report are very disturbing and show a fixed mindset from the authors on amalgamations as the preferred method of reform.
“Study after study has proven that amalgamating councils does not produce either increased funding or inevitable efficiencies. In fact on many occasions amalgamated councils have suffered from as many diseconomies of scale as economies of scale.
“Most ordinary residents are rightly suspect of the argument that bigger governments produce better or more effective governments.
“People know that they get far more personal service from local government than from state or federal bureaucracies and this will be lost if their local council gets expanded to have a population bigger than some states.
“The Greens are calling on the government to promptly adopt those recommendations that give greater financial autonomy and structural flexibility to local councils across the state.
“There is a very real concern that the O’Farrell government will use this report to implement a new Local Government Act that will allow it to force unpopular council amalgamations on NSW if it is elected to a second term of office.