"Well, he's hopeless, isn't he? You might as well ask the cat."

When the incoming Minister for Local Government Don Page announced to a packed Shires Association Conference that the first step to "shape the future of local government in New South Wales" was to invite all the mayors and general managers to Dubbo, what better possible response could there be than the famous quote from the hotelier Basil Fawlty.  (The Hotel Inspectors episode, for the enthusiasts.)

Because if you really want to do something that is an exciting initiative, something that really will shape the future of local government over the next 25 years, the last people you would want to invite would be the people with the most to lose. Particularly if you are not going to invite anyone else.

Far too many councils are trading insolvent, can't afford to reflect the demands of the market to pay to attract and retain good staff, can't afford to train staff etc etc.  Clearly someone needs to put a rocket up the amalgamation process and the last people to ask would be the people who have the big jobs and the most to lose – mayors and GMs.

How about 50 councils across the State? What was wrong with the recommendation of the Sproats’ enquiry what, 15 years ago? Who wants to change something that puts them out of a job?

50 councils, suddenly 100 fewer general managers and 1000 fewer councillors. What’s not to like?

As the news was absorbed by the industry (to the sound of mayors and general managers preening) the USU launched an attack on the one-dimensional nature of the invitation list and our own discussions with the Government revealed that they really did intend the invitations to go broader rather than restrict the Dubbo talkfest to asking the cat.

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