Reform - Fit for the Future
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.
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.
- An overview section, including a brief outline of the overall amalgamation process;
- A ‘Guidance for Leaders’ section which includes information for those leading and managing the overall amalgamation process;
- A section designed for use by specific functional working groups containing actions and tasks arranged under a four-stage amalgamation process; and
- A comprehensive list of resources (e.g. checklists, guidelines, templates, examples and relevant links) arranged by topic area.
A key component is the Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change (PDF, 1.4MB). This was developed by LGNSW in 2015 to help members manage the workplace issues that will arise in the face of the reform process. The Workplace reform toolkit will assist councils to meet their legal and ethical obligations to their employees.
LGNSW worked with UTS:CLG to prepare practical material that deals with all aspects of amalgamation transition (such as governance, financial and operational issues) by adapting and expanding on resources previously developed in Western Australia and Queensland.
LGNSW is offering workshops based on the Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change. Details are available on our Learning and Events page.
Innovation Fund Applications Open
Round 1 of the $4 million Innovation Fund is now open. The Innovation Fund is part of the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future package. The NSW Government is calling for applications from eligible councils to develop new solutions that benefit small regional and rural communities. More information can be found in the Innovation Fund Guidelines.
No Forced Amalgamations
‘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
- Transition period following proclamations (PDF, 142KB)
- Proposed Freeze of Rating Structures and SRV Applications for Merging Councils (PDF, 166KB)
- Issues arising from first meeting of MAG Working Group on the Local Government Act Review (PDF, 134KB).
- IPART FFTF Final Report - LGNSW Response - Comments and Critique (PDF, 281KB)
- Principles & Process for Considering New Merger Proposals (PDF, 146KB)
- Financial Support for Small Rural & Regional Councils Principles to Guide IPART when Seeking Additional FFTF Information from Councils
- Criteria and Benchmarks – Guidance for the Panel
- Status of Rural Councils
- The timeframe and methodology of proposed Expert Advisory Panel
- Treasury Corporation (TCorp) methodology and FFTF criteria and benchmarks
- Local Water Utilities
- Composition and authority of proposed Expert Advisory Panel
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
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.
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 compiled a range of resources to guide councils through the implementation phase of FFTF.
Emerging Directions Paper
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
Resources and Links