Here comes the knockout punch

Today Premier Mike Baird will bring out the knockout punch. Revealed exclusively in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald, the government will proceed to amalgamate the 43 metropolitan Sydney councils to 25 - consistent with the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel and IPART.

At this stage it is less clear what is proposed for regional New South Wales. It was always expected that the Premier would go hard on the metropolitan area because it had always been a smart option back to the days of the Sproat’s Report in 2002 - even though a succession of Labor governments lacked the resolve to do anything useful about it.

But the coalition government is conflicted in the bush because councils are significant local employers. It will be hard for Mike Baird and his Liberal/National government to bag Bob Carr and his successors for lacking the bollocks to do something about rationalising the broke councils if they can’t find their own pair to modernise local government in the bush.

According to the Herald, the announcement will target 150,000 as a suitable size for a metropolitan local government. Essentially that means:

  • Hornsby merges with Ku-ring-gai
  • Pittwater takes the northern part of Warringah while Manly takes the rest and some of Mosman
  • North Sydney gets the rest of Mosman
  • Ryde, Lane Cove and Hunters Hill will be combined
  • Waverley and Randwick have agreed to merge
  • Botany Bay will merge with Rockdale
  • Marrickville, Leichardt and Ashfield have agreed to merge
  • So have Burwood, Auburn and Canada Bay
  • Strathfield will have to choose and will choose Burwood and Canada Bay because their genteel ratepayers would prefer to keep away from the Kardashians and the conflicted councillors/developers on Auburn but you can’t always get what you want
  • Parramatta will expand and that will be the end of Holroyd (and the Hills might get a bit too) and
  • Bankstown and Canterbury will be forced to merge

This morning the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole will conduct a teleconference with mayors and later in the day maps will be published for certainty about proposed boundaries. We can send you a link to the information next week.

All of these boundary changes will be introduced under the provisions of the current Local Government Act. The Boundaries Commission will be revived to conduct public hearings before any amalgamations proceed. This will roll out through most of 2016.

As will the development of a new Local Government Act and the Government has announced that it may need to delay the September elections while that happens. For those of us hoping to see some sacked councillors (especially at North Sydney and mid-Western, just to name two) we will have to wait and continue to deal with what we’ve got.

The Government will also announce more money as financial incentives for those which amalgamate-increasing from $550 million to $700 million.

And all of this will be underpinned by the government’s continuing commitment that employees will remain under the Local Government State Award or any existing enterprise agreement and the protections available against compulsory redundancy for three years in the Act.

At this stage, it appears that the announcement will not trigger a “proposal period”, so members should pressure their councils to sign up to the commitment to provide five years protection with the individual letter to employees using the template in our November issue. Individual letters is the preferred option of the three local government unions.

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