Local council reform input highjacked by sack threat

DEVELOPING: This afternoon, New South Wales Local Government Minister Paul Toole is scheduled to explain media reports that the NSW government intends to sack all 152 councils if they don’t voluntarily merge. The Local Government NSW association says the minister should expect civil disobedience.

New South Wales Local Government Minister Paul Toole is scheduled to appear this afternoon at the inquiry into local government reforms, despite media reports on the weekend that the NSW government intends to sack all 152 councils anyway.

Nervous cabinet ministers representing the outer parts of the state are said to be behind the leaked report that the lays out a plan to force council mergers over the objections of their elected representatives. The plan echoes the strategy used by then Victorian premier Jeff Kennett in 1994 when he sacked 210 councils overnight and merged them into 78, and indeed last year Kennett advised Premier Mike Baird to do just that.

So far only five metropolitan councils out of the NSW’s 152 local governments have put up their hands for mergers.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which was asked to perform the role of expert advisory panel, will decide whether each individual council is “fit” or “unfit” under the government’s Fit for the Future criteria. IPART is scheduled to report by October 16, but after that date, there has been no stated plan for what happens next.

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