Today IPART has effectively rubber stamped the government’s forced amalgamation agenda with their uncritical acceptance of the Coalition’s ‘Fit for the Future’ plan to super-size Sydney councils and force unpopular mergers on regional areas. However without an upper house majority to deliver these reforms the Coalition may well be driving a fatally compromised political agenda.
IPART’s final methodology has been lifted almost entirely from the Independent Local Government Review Panel which recommended that that 104 of the 152 state-wide councils merge (69%) and 33 of the 41 Sydney metropolitan councils (80%) merge.
The IPART methodology takes as its starting point forcing mergers on the great majority of Sydney councils and widespread mergers of rural councils with a ‘bigger is better approach’ that has no objective evidence to support it.
Greens MP and Spokesperson for Local Government David Shoebridge said:
“IPART has effectively rubber stamped the government’s ideological agenda for forced amalgamations despite the impact super-sized councils will have on local communities.
“IPART has added almost no independent value to the assessment process and this is hardly surprising when it took just eight working days to consider its response to four public hearings and 174 written submissions.
“When IPART’s assessment starts with such a politically biased formula its conclusions will very likely be rejected by a majority of MP’s in the NSW Upper House who oppose forced amalgamations.
“IPART’s consultation had all the hallmarks of typical NSW government consultation which is more token than real, with just an eight day turnaround between the submission deadline and its final report.
“The government is driving IPART down the forced-merger path, but the fact is that neither the Minister nor IPART can just force mergers on unwilling councils.
“Without a pro-amalgamation majority in the NSW Upper House what we may well be seeing is a clueless Local Government Minister leading a totally compromised political agenda.
“IPART has essentially admitted that they are shooting in the dark on assessing the scale and capacity of local councils, identifying ‘no standardised benchmarks for these requirements’.
“Sydney’s councils are already very large on a global scale and there is no evidenced-based case to make them any bigger.
“While IPART continues with its flawed assessment, the Upper House has established a Parliamentary Inquiry to critically examine the government’s case for amalgamations and give locals a voice.
“The Greens will continue to stand with local councils in their campaign to strengthen local democracy and keep local government genuinely local.” Mr Shoebridge said.