Councils across Sydney are fighting back against the State Government's push for mergers.
In our area, the recommendation is for one super-sized Northern Beaches Council that would merge Manly, Warringah and Pittwater councils and stretch from Manly to Palm Beach – a coastline of 30kms.
According to Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham, Manly Council has already said it wants to remain as it is, and has cited its strong financial position as evidence of its ability to stand alone. The second preference would be to split the Northern Beaches area into two, using Warringah Rd as the boundary. This idea is supported by Pittwater council, but opposed by Warringah, which favours the full amalgamation approach.
“Our stance to remain as we are is echoed by many metropolitian councils, including those on the North Shore and in the Inner West”, Clr Bingham said.
Those councils are banding together to challenge the assumptions behind the merger recommendation.
The recommendation, which comes from the Independent Local Government Review Panel, says that amalgamations are necessary to create "stronger and more effective" councils, with the emphasis on saving money on bureaucracy and administration.
In response Lane Cove Council has voted to engage academic and financial consultants to assess the true financial results if mergers proceed. They are likely to be joined by Mosman, Ryde, North Sydney and Hunters Hill councils in a joint effort.
The consultants will also consider alternatives to amalgamation, including joint council organisations, similar to the existing regional council groupings.
As well five Inner West councils - Canada Bay, Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt and Marrickville - have agreed to undertake joint research on the economic and social impacts of amalgamation and to jointly fight any move to force them to merge.
The government says NSW councils are collectively losing $1 million a day, with two-thirds of the councils running operating deficits.
But metropolitan councils say the city experience is different. Research by the Northern Sydney Mayors' Group shows that metro councils had a combined operating surplus of more than $20 million last financial year. Manly itself is in a strong financial position, reporting an operating surplus of $4.6 million.
Clr Bingham said there was no evidence that big councils were more financially efficient than small ones, and that mergers over too large an area would disenfranchise residents and "take the local out of local government".
The state government has given councils until the end of June to present their "Fit for the Future" submissions, giving their preferred merger options or justifying why they are sustainable on their own. The submissions will be assessed by an "independent expert panel" by October.
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Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.