Ms Cheryl Thomas
NSW Council Boundary Review
GPO Box 5341
Sydney NSW 2001
SUBMISSION ON LEICHHARDT MUNICIPAL, MARRICKVILLE AND ASHFIELD COUNCILS MERGER PROPOSAL
I write to express my strong objection to the forced amalgamation of the three Inner West councils. I have addressed some of the key criteria below.
Financial advantages or disadvantages of the proposal to the residents and ratepayers:
Financial modelling commissioned by Leichhardt Council shows that a separate Leichhardt will perform better financially than a mega-council of Leichhardt, Ashfield and Marrickville.
Communities of interest and geographic cohesion in the existing areas and in any proposed new area:
Leichhardt Municipality is a clearly delineated and cohesive geographic area. Parramatta Road forms a long southern border with Marrickville. Likewise Hawthorne Canal forms the western border with Ashfield; and Johnson’s Creek the eastern border with the City of Sydney. The foreshore of Iron Cove, Sydney Harbour and Rozelle Bay forms the continuous northern border.
Existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas and the impact of change on them:
Leichhardt Council, as presently constituted, has been in existence for 67 years. The Council has ways of making decisions and campaigning for community objectives that involve residents. There has been the long experiment with its unique ‘Open Council’ - in which the individual citizen can make their views directly known to decision-makers - is supported as a key part of the political and cultural landscape.
Attitudes of the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned:
I am strongly in favour of the retention of Leichhardt Council and oppose the proposal to force amalgamations.
Any effects the merge might have on elected representation:
The impact of amalgamation on local representation will be significant. At present each Leichhardt councillor represents less than 5,000 people. If the amalgamation proceeds each councillor in the new mega-council will represent more than 15,000 people. That will mean less access for residents and less advocacy from councillors. I fear this will lead to a new council waving through new overdevelopments.
Any impacts the merger proposal could have on the ability of the council to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities:
An extract from a KPMG study published in December estimated that 96% of financial savings of merging Sydney’s Councils would come from reducing Council workforces. That means reduced services.
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Submission to Council Boundary Review - Leichhardt, Marrickville & Ashfield: make a submission by 28 Feb
Ms Cheryl Thomas
Showing 104 reactions
I feel well served by the current council. in particular I value Leichhardt’s policy of open council, which allows residents to speak at council meetings without having to register. This is democracy in action. Any amalgamation would diminish my ability to be heard and be represented, as councillors will be responsible for a much greater constituency, will not be so familiar with their local concerns and will have a greater workload.
Leichhardt Council is in a strong financial position. It takes advantage of purchasing economies through cooperation with other councils in the relevant Regional Organisation of Councils. Amalgamation will not bring financial advantages.
The state government do not have a mandate to force council amalgamations. The process it has used so far lacks credibility and is deeply flawed. [Refercence the Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government] that has:
• Recommended government policy of no forced amalgamations after finding the ‘Fit for the Future’ assessment process was flawed.
• Found that IPART should never have conducted assessments into the overall ‘fitness’ of local councils and recommended that the government reject IPART’s findings.
• Found no evidence to support the government’s agenda that council amalgamations will save residents money. In Victoria and Queensland forced council mergers have now pushed rates to up to 40% more than in NSW.
• For a council amalgamation to have any legitimacy, it should only proceed where residents and ratepayers of each local government have voted in favour of amalgamation in a valid referendum.
• 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 their local councillors
• In Queensland a number of mega-councils have now begun the expensive process of de-amalgamation, with the Queensland Government bearing the cost of this process.
Genuine community consultation on forced amalgamations has been sorely lacking; the process keeps changing and appears to be rushed. The state government has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars on a TV advertisement with false claims that the local government system is ‘broken’. The only broken parts are the vested interests of the state government and their corporate supporters who appear to be the driver in an undemocratic operating system regarding forced council amalgamations
To properly assess the Leichhardt merger proposal a separate plebiscite needs to be called by the delegate in the existing Leichhardt local council area under S265 of the Local Government Act.
I urge you to please act in the best interests of Leichhardt Council residents by calling for a separate plebiscite for Leichhardt.
The ‘savings’ achieved by inevitable reduced staff will result in loss of jobs and loss of corporate knowledge for the municipality.
There is a strong sense of identity in our municipality and Leichhardt Council is the vehicle by which this sense of community brings about events and activities that distinguish our area. I do not want that to be diluted and lost by a forced merger with surrounding Councils.
The “raison d’être” of a local council is that it’s local: it represents the local people and local issues. Amalgamating local councils into super councils makes no sense from a democratic point of view. If anything, as the population grows, we ought to have smaller and more numerous councils.
We already have a State Government for the overarching issues of NSW, we don’t need to transform local councils into mini-state govts.
Why does the State Govt want amalgamations across Sydney? It can only be to suppress local voices, and further erode democratic power. All talk of “efficiency” and “savings” is a palatable way of saying “we want to sack a significant number of council employees”. Ipso facto, this will mean less services, and less of a voice, for us.
On the other hand, we PAY for our councils through incredibly high council rates and a multitude of other fees and fines, so I expect my local council to be small enough to give me and every other resident of Marrickville meaningful representation and service.
In future, I don’t want to compete with three times as many residents for attention, yet still pay premium rates for reduced services and a hollowed democracy.
Democracy is expensive, democracy is worth fighting for, democracy is key.
Amalgamated councils would inevitably lead to larger and more remote and inflexible bureaucracies which, by their nature, tend to respond to bureaucratic imperatives not local needs.
I do not believe it would lead to any savings, but risks making us all more exposed to developer greed and manipulation. Foretastes of this we have already seen with the advent of private certification and so called complying development, which was never intended for older, inner city areas and has proved disastrous when cynically exploited by uncaring and rapacious developers, who have no attachment to the local area and less concern for general community welfare.
Local councils were established to deal with local issues, keep them local. Amalgamations serve only the political machinations of those who need to appease the insatiable greed of developers, who, in turn, finance their political campaigns. Please keep our council local.
The people should decide in the next council election whether to amalgamate or not. This is democracy, the people of NSW do not want a big brother approach to local issues and developments. We want to maintain the integrity and chapter of Sydney, its suburbs and a sense of belonging.
Ashfield Council fits in character with Burwood and Drummoyne and should not be with Leichhardt/ Balmain however suburbs across the river and harbour have more in common, such as Hunter’s Hill and Waverton.