Reform - Fit for the Future

The NSW Government released its Fit for the Future (FFTF) program in September 2014 following a three-year Independent Review of Local Government.

In May 2016 the NSW Government subsequently announced the amalgamation of a number of councils across NSW. The amalgamation process that many councils are now undergoing will present many challenges over coming months and years. While LGNSW has never supported forced amalgamations, our role in supporting members has also required that we prepare for the eventuality and assist members during this period of change. LGNSW will continue to hold the NSW Government accountable, including for its commitments to fund amalgamating councils to assist with costs. 

Latest updates

Joint Organisations Model - Submissions Open

Consultations are now open for the Joint Organisation (JO) model, with the release of the paper Joint Organisations: Towards a new model for regional collaboration.

The NSW Government intends to roll out JOs to all non-metropolitan councils during 2017. Councils are encouraged to make an online submission to this latest consultation paper. LGNSW will be also making a submission on behalf of member councils and welcomes input from councils.

Guidelines on Stronger Communities Fund

The NSW Government has developed guidelines to help councils understand their obligations when determining projects for delivery under the Stronger Communities Fund. The fund has been established to provide newly-created councils with funding for projects that improve community infrastructure and services. Read more on the Government’s Fit for the Future website.

Guidelines on planning functions for merging councils

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) has developed guidelines which provide information to councils about how to maintain efficient land use planning functions as they implement mergers. Read more on the DP&E website.

Post-amalgamation proclamation fact sheets

LGNSW has produced the following fact sheets for mayors and councillors, general managers, and council staff affected by a council merger:

Council amalgamations proceed

On 12 May 2016, the NSW Government proclaimed 19 new councils to replace 42 existing councils, with several additional amalgamation proposals pending. The NSW Government’s website contains a full list of proclamations and related information. See LGNSW Media Release for President Keith Rhoades’ response.

An administrator, interim general manager and, in most cases, one or two deputy general managers, have been appointed to each new council. The administrator of each new council will also select representatives for an Implementation Advisory Group and a Local Representation Committee. Former mayors and councillors who participated in the expression of interest process may be invited to be members of these bodies.

The 19 new councils came into effect at the time of proclamation.

The Premier announced in-principle support for nine other amalgamations but has not yet acted on these proposals. He also announced that a number of amalgamation proposals would not proceed.

The proclamations also stipulate the number of councillors and wards for each new council. Where wards have been created, those ward boundaries have already been released, and this information can be downloaded from the Stronger Councils website.

The Government has said it will provide up to $5 million dollars to each new regional council and up to $10 million to new metropolitan councils, to assist with amalgamation costs. New councils will also be eligible for up to $15 million to fund new investment in community infrastructure, through the Stronger Communities Fund.

New councils do not go to election until 9 September 2017.

Amalgamation Toolkit

An online web-based Amalgamation Toolkit  is available on our web site to assist councils with the amalgamation process. The toolkit is designed for use by leaders, managers and working groups.

A key component is the Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change. This was developed by LGNSW in 2015 to help members manage workplace issues that will arise in the face of the reform process.

In addition, LGNSW has been offering workshops at various locations around the state to support newly merged councils. Details are available on our Learning and Events page.

LGNSW Advocacy

Submissions

LGNSW has made more than a dozen submissions on reform-related issues during 2015-16, covering topics such as the FFTF criteria and benchmarks; the methodology of the IPART FFTF assessment process; the IPART review of compliance burdens on Local Government; and a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into Local Government in NSW. 
 
These submissions and other background papers can be found on our Resources and Links page.

No Forced Amalgamations

LGNSW maintains a policy of voluntary structural reform and no forced amalgamations. To support member councils opposed to forcible amalgamation LGNSW has developed the Our Council, Our Voice, Our Choice campaign. 

‘Fix the Funding First’

LGNSW has long maintained there are systemic flaws in the funding system for Local Government, both in NSW and at a national level. These will not be rectified by simply amalgamating councils. LGNSW says 'Fix the Funding First'. LGNSW therefore continues to call for reforms to the financial framework for the sector - an end to rate pegging, fewer rate exemptions, reform of regulated fees and charges, an end to cost shifting, and a fair go in direct funding from the Commonwealth.

Membership on Ministerial Advisory Group

LGNSW continues to represent the sector as a member of the Government’s Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) which was appointed to guide the reform process. We have made submissions to the MAG on a number of key issues including:

LGNSW gives evidence at Parliamentary inquiry on FFTF

LGNSW gave evidence at the first Public Hearing (27 July) of the NSW Legislative Council's Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government in NSW. The LGNSW Opening Statement restated LGNSW's opposition to forced amalgamation and outlined the systemic flaws in the funding model for Local Government.

LGNSW also made a comprehensive submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into FFTF, calling on the Government to fix the funding issues first, before forcing council amalgamations.

The Inquiry report was released its report in on 29 October, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Baird Government’s Fit for the Future process and calling on the Government to cease its plans to force council mergers.


LGNSW Member Support

Workshops

2016

LGNSW is running the following workshops for members:
  • Managing Workplace Reform - LGNSW is offering workshops based on our recently released Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change.

  • Managing Change and Uncertainty - This workshop will help participants recognise how they are personally dealing with major change and uncertainty.

2015

In 2015, LGNSW held a number of programs in response to Local Government reform.  These were:

  • 2015 Local Government Finance Summit “Fix the Funding First” (August 2015) - This summit identified new solutions to address current inequities and place Local Government on a sound footing to provide stronger communities for the future. 

  • Joint Organisations: Emerging Directions in Regional Collaboration (September 2015) - This workshop was held to assist all councils to better understand the proposed new JO model and to formulate their opinions on the content of the Emerging Directions paper.

  • A series of FFFT Proposal ‘Bootcamps’ to assist councils preparing their FFTF proposals. The six bootcamp sessions had over 167 registrations in all. Papers and presentations from these workshops are available on our Resources and Links page.

  • A two-day roundtable held in March 2015 which examined research into the pros and cons of amalgamations and shared some lessons from a number of frontline experiences in both NSW and interstate. A consistent message from past experience was that the key ingredients of successful council mergers include:

    • A fresh start
    • A partnering approach
    • Sound planning and implementation
    • Communication and stakeholder involvement.

Papers from this roundtable, including a background paper (PDF, 1.1MB) prepared by LGNSW, contain information on issues and lessons learned from past experience and research into council mergers. These are available on the Resources and Links page.

Legal processes around amalgamations

LGNSW has prepared Local Government Reform - FAQs (PDF, 244KB) to help clarify some issues about the legal processes of amalgamation. This should be considered general advice only and councils should still seek their own independent professional advice where appropriate.
 

Community Engagement

The Government’s FFTF templates and guidelines contained a range of requirements for councils to conduct community engagement when developing their FFTF proposals. To assist councils, LGNSW compiled a summary of these requirements (PDF, 162KB). LGNSW also collated some case study examples (PDF, 143KB) of how councils were approaching community engagement for FFTF.
Councils’ consultation with the community is one of IPART’s considerations in assessing FFTF proposals.
 
Councils already do comprehensive consultation as part of their Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) process, and information on community engagement is available on the OLG website. 

Resources

LGNSW has compiled a range of resources to guide councils through the implementation phase of FFTF.

FFTF Program

The Government released its Fit for the Future package in September 2014, in response to the findings of the three-year Independent Review of Local Government. As part of the Local Government reform process, councils were asked to consider new ways of working and new structural arrangements. There is a wide range of views amongst our member councils on many of the aspects of the NSW Government’s package. We welcome councils' feedback so we can raise common issues impacting councils and continue to provide alternative views and analysis to Government on behalf of the sector as a whole.

Joint Organisations

Five groups of NSW councils were selected to work with the OLG to develop a Joint Organisation (JO) model. The Pilot groups are: Hunter, Illawarra, Central West, Namoi and Riverina regions.

Emerging Directions Paper

Submissions to the OLG’s Emerging Directions paper on JOs closed in mid-October 2015. The Emerging Directions paper was based on the work of the Pilot JOs to date, internal OLG working groups and the outcomes of the JO Mid-Pilot Workshop. This consultation was the first opportunity for non-pilot councils, county councils, Local Aboriginal Land Councils and other stakeholders across the state to provide input to the Joint Organisation model.
 
LGNSW held a workshop on Joint Organisations: Emerging Directions for Regional Collaboration on 11 September 2015 to assist councils to respond to the paper. LGNSW also made a submission on behalf of our members.
 
The LGNSW submission welcomed the potential of JOs to be a positive collaborative model across council boundaries and between State and Local Government while flagging that the JO model needs to take into consideration the successful collaborative arrangements that are already occurring across NSW. LGNSW also argued that the JO model needs to be based on sound and clear principles and core functions while maintaining a flexible governance structure.

Current Local Government Reviews

IPART Review of Regulatory & Compliance Burdens

IPART is reviewing the planning, reporting or compliance obligations placed on councils through State Government legislation or policy that are imposing inefficient, unnecessary or excessive burdens. LGNSW made a submission (PDF, 680KB) to IPART's issues paper for this review in August 2015.

IPART released a Draft Report in January 2016 which contains 49 draft recommendations, the majority of which will be welcomed by Local Government. Most are consistent with those sought by LGNSW and councils in their submissions. However, there are some of significant recommendations that will require further analysis and consultation with the sector.

Submissions close 19 February 2016. The Draft Report and Fact Sheet can be found on IPART’s web site.

Review of LG Legislation

The Office of Local Government (OLG) has commenced public consultation on phase one of the review of the Local Government Act 1993 and released an explanatory paper about the proposed amendments on 8 January 2016. LGNSW will be making a submission. LGNSW is also participating in a working group with OLG, the Local Government Professionals Association and the United Services Union. Submissions close 15 March 2016.

IPART Review of Local Government Rating System

IPART is reviewing the Local Government rating system, which was one of the recommendations of the Independent Local Government Review Panel. Terms of reference for the review were issued in December 2015 and are available on IPART’s web site. The review process will include public consultation, an interim report to the government in mid-2016, and a final report in December 2016.

LGNSW has been pursuing its stance on rate pegging and exemptions as a key participant in the review of the Special Rate Variation (SRV) process, which was an important element of the Government’s FFTF package.

Far West Initiative

The 8 councils in the Far-West of NSW (Brewarrina, Bourke, Broken Hill, Central Darling, Cobar, Balranald, Wentworth, Walgett) were not required to submit a FFTF proposal, in recognition of the unique set of challenges faced by councils in that area.
 
In late August 2015, the NSW Government announced the establishment of a Far-West Advisory Committee to advise on the development and implementation of the Initiative and broader reforms to improve outcomes for Far West communities. The Committee is chaired by former Murray Darling MP, John Williams.
 
Since the Far-West Initiative was announced late last year, councils, state and federal agencies, NGOs, business and communities have been involved in consultation.

Resources and Links

Find more reform-related information including submissions from LGNSW, background papers, presentations and community engagement examples on our Resources and Links page.