Mosman asks IPART to explain Fit for the Future criteria

27 May 2015

Mosman Council has called upon the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to formally explain why councils must meet requirements of size to satisfy its ‘Fit for the Future’ criteria.

In a submission to IPART about the assessment methodology it proposes to use as the State Government’s Expert Advisory Panel on local government reform, Mosman’s Mayor and its six other Councillors pointed to “significant issues” that need to be considered and warned that scale should not be seen as a separate objective or criterion.

“It is critical that IPART clarify whether scale (the population size of a council) and strategic capacity are one criterion or two because if scale matters it must be as a means to some important objective,” Mayor Cr Peter Abelson, an economist, said.

“If a council has strategic capacity, scale has no separate standing as a criterion so we request that IPART define scale and explicitly provide the reasons and evidence for this.”

In the submission, the Councillors described the State Government’s Independent Local Government Review Panel’s (ILGRP) 10 sub-criteria defining strategic capacity as ill-defined, lacking metrics and unable to be readily validated.

The Councillors said it was more important that a council be able to provide services to its local community and noted that the key driver of financial capacity is income level and not council size.

“A key criterion for fitness should be a council’s ability to provide desired local public services – independent of strategic capacity – and which it could be argued are just as easily achieved by smaller councils,” Cr Abelson said.

“Councils’ customer satisfaction surveys provide vital evidence on these issues and in Mosman’s case 90% of respondents to our recent consultation are at least somewhat satisfied with Council’s performance, including 67% who were very satisfied or satisfied, while 82% back Mosman’s continued independence.”

The submission follows IPART’s approval last week of Council’s request for a rate variation above the 2.4% rate peg which will provide the basis for an independent financially sustainable council over coming years and support its lodgement of a ‘Council Improvement Proposal (Existing structure)’ as our ‘Fit for the Future’ submission.

Mosman Council’s full submission to IPART can be found at mosman.nsw.gov.au/localgovreform.