Putting the community first

Posted Thursday 02 May 2013

In its draft report last week the Independent Local Government Review Panel recommended numerous council mergers including an amalgamation of Mosman with North Sydney, Lane Cove, Willoughby, Hunters Hill and possibly east Ryde.

The Panel claimed that small councils are not financially viable, the current size differentials are inequitable, and larger councils can better represent their communities on metropolitan issues, assist the Metropolitan strategy and underpin Sydney’s status as a global city.

Some of this is rhetoric and the rest is not substantiated. There is no evidence that smaller councils in the Sydney area are financially weaker than larger councils.

It is humpty dumpty thinking to argue that, because smaller local councils provide better services than larger ones, this inequity should be resolved by making small councils larger.

There are problems of local government, including its role as a monopoly supplier, the lack of consistent accounting standards and the lack of effective performance metrics.

Merging five small monopolies into one large monopoly does not address these problems. Amalgamation does not increase revenue capacity and there is no evidence that amalgamating small monopolies into larger ones reduces costs.

The Panel suggests that Local Boards can represent local communities within the larger areas but it does not discuss the powers and financial capacity of these Boards. It is hard to escape the conclusion that the Local Boards are intended as fig leafs for the greater proposal.

Critically the Panel is deaf to the feelings of local communities. The Panel asserts that there is no evidence that larger local areas will reduce local identity.

Mosman Council has presented evidence that volunteering is much greater in small communities than in large ones. Most people have the majority of their friends within 3 to 4 km of where they live. Bureaucratic place management is no substitute for local ownership, representation and democracy.

Ultimately the state government will decide the outcomes. Current state government policy is no forced amalgamations. We strongly urge that there be no change in this policy.

The Independent Mosman Community Committee has been set up to fight to maintain our independence. Please let the Committee know of your support at IndependentMosman@gmail.com

Cr. Peter Abelson, Mayor of Mosman

See also –