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Letter to Local Govt Minister

Posted Thursday 03 September 2015

On Monday 31 August 2015 I wrote the letter below to Mr Paul Toole, Minister for Local Government.

Dear Minister

Last week the Office of Local Government (OLG) placed a large advertisement in the Mosman Daily as well as in major newspapers and on television, which regrettably denigrated the services provided by local councils without providing any evidence.

Headed “It’s time to get councils working better for local communities”, the advertisement noted that there are nearly twice as many councils in NSW as in Victoria and Queensland and stated that “this system is not working as well as it should be and that it is time to sort it out so councils can invest in better services and facilities for your local community”.

The reference to the number of councils is seriously misleading as it makes no allowance for differences in population size, functions or geographical area. In any case the OLG has not at any time provided any evidence that councils provide better service in Victoria or Queensland than in NSW (even with rate pegging imposed on councils by the NSW Government for nearly 40 years).

In my own area of Mosman, in a random survey in March this year conducted for our response to the Fit for the Future program, 90% of respondents replied that they were at least somewhat satisfied with the performance of Mosman Council and their services across all responsibility areas, including 67% who were satisfied or very satisfied. Our biannual Community Survey in June 2014 produced very similar results.

Not surprisingly, in separate surveys this year, 82% of respondents supported the continued independence of the Council and strongly opposed forced amalgamations.

The following excerpt from an email received today is typical of the messages that I receive: “It seems everyone is opposed to the idea of forced amalgamations, except the State Government. We will lose our lovely local community feel and, if merged with a large council such as Willoughby, will lose any voice in decisions …..Thank you for making Mosman a wonderful community to live in. I have enjoyed my nearly 4 years here very much and hope this enjoyment will continue.”

Mr Minister, can you please provide me (our community) with say four or five major examples and supporting evidence of poor services in metropolitan Sydney under our current system which have to be “sorted out”?

Given the importance and urgency of the issues, I should be grateful if you could provide a substantive response within a week (a timeframe that I always try to meet in correspondence in our local community).

If we could identify the problems (and steer clear of rhetoric) we could have a mature, constructive and respectful debate about how to resolve them. Regrettably this debate is not currently happening.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Peter Abelson

The Hon. Michael Baird, Premier
The Hon. Jillian Skinner, Member for North Shore
Ms Marcia Doheny, Chief Executive, Office of Local Government
Ms Boel Eriksson, Editor, Mosman Daily
Mr John Miller, Principal Council Officer, Upper House Committees, Parliament of NSW