Marrickville steps up fight against forced mergers

Media release, 22 May 2015 

Marrickville Council has voted in favour of several Greens motions to step up Council’s fight against proposed amalgamations. The successful Greens’ motions (as attached) call on the State Government to urgently extend the rushed assessment process being applied to determine if Councils are ‘fit for the future’.

The motions also commit Council to organise urgent public meetings to explain how and why Marrickville Council is advocating that it remain independent. The first “town hall style” public meeting has been scheduled for 7.30pm, Wednesday 10 June at Petersham Town Hall.

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore moved the motions, which received support from all but the Liberal Councillor. Clr Ellsmore said, “Council has recently undertaken a consultation with our residents to get their views on the proposed “super inner west” Council, which would see Marrickville merged with Leichhardt, Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield Councils.

“The results are in, and residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the amalgamation of Marrickville Council. With over 4000 residents participating in the survey, this is the second strongest response to a Council survey ever received. Residents care about protecting Marrickville Council, and they want us to remain the successful independent Council that we are now”, she said.

The results of the survey found nearly three quarters of residents oppose the mergers. This is despite around 40% of residents identifying with the “inner west” as much as with their local suburb.  The consultation follows detailed modelling by Marrickville Council commissioned from Morris Low that shows that Marrickville Council will be more financially stable and meet a higher number of the suggested assessment criteria if it remains stand alone.

Clr Ellsmore said, “Councils in NSW are facing several looming deadlines imposed by the State Government in the supposed ‘independent’ process to assess whether Councils should be merged.

“The State Government has appointed the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to develop criteria to test whether a Council is ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’, but these criteria fail to consider the criteria that residents care most about – such as whether Council delivers quality services or has the support of the community.

“It also sets arbitrary ‘scale’ criteria that suggest all small Councils like Marrickville Council will automatically fail the test, even if we meet all other criteria.

“The timelines for this assessment process are a joke. With submissions commenting on the assessment criteria due next week, IPART will have less than one week to consider Councils’ detailed submissions before finalising the assessment criteria. Councils will then have less than a month to respond to the final assessment criteria by the 30 June 2015 deadline.

“Does anyone really believe that IPART will be able to genuinely consider hundreds of details submissions, and respond, in one week? It appears this process is either set up to fail, or that the Liberal Government has already made its decision about forced amalgamations.

“No information has been provided to Councils about what will happen after IPART makes its final assessment, post 30 June 2015, about which Councils are ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’. Details of IPART’s reasons may not be publicly released, with suggestions that information will be sent straight to a secret Cabinet process for decision about whether or not to force the merger of Councils,” Clr Ellsmore said.

As a result of the Greens’ motions one or more public meetings will be held by the end of June and residents will be encouraged to make individual submissions in support of Council’s decision to stand alone. Meetings held in adjoining Councils have had strong attendance, with network of Councillors and residents across parties and areas developing to actively fight the amalgamations push.

For comment: Clr Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213

Copies of the Community Engagement Report from the latest consultation of residents can be downloaded from the Council website at http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/en/council/elected-council/business-papers/ (Item 6, 19 May 2015 Council meeting)

Copies of the Morris Low ‘Fit for the Future – Shared Modelling’ Report comparing the business case for Marrickville Council as a standalone Council to the proposed innerwest Council can be downloaded from the Council’s website at http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/en/council/newsandnotices/local-government-amalgamations/

Or on the Marrickville Council page of the “No Forced Amalgamations” website established by Leichhardt Council about the joint modelling developed cooperatively across the inner west Councils – https://noforcedmergers.wordpress.com/
GREENS MOTIONS 19 May 2015, Marrickville Council

Item 5 – Fit for the Future – IPART

THAT:

  1. Council endorse the points raised in this report [the staff report] for the purposes of making a format submission to IPART by 25 May 2015.
  2. Council’s submission also highlights that the assessment criteria should be amended to:
    1. Drop the minimum population requirement of 250,000 being proposed for many metropolitan Councils;
    2. Include a criteria which provides for Councils to demonstrate how they are delivering scale through regional coordination (for example through SSROC);
    3. Include criteria to measure the scope and quality of services delivered by Local Councils; and
    4. Include criteria to measure community’s satisfaction with their Local Council.
  3. Council urgently write to the Premier and the Minister for Local Government expressing concern about the process, in particular the timeframes that will give IPART less than one week to consider Councils’ submissions before finalising the assessment criteria, and give Councils less than a month to respond to the final assessment criteria once it is released.

Item 6 – Fit for the Future Community Engagement Report

THAT:

  1. Council receives and notes the Community Engagement Report; and
  2. based on Community feedback, Council Officers develop the business case for Marrickville to be a stand-alone entity and present a summary of that case at the 9 June Council Meeting.
  3. Council organise one or more a public information meetings for residents before the end of June 2015 to provide information on Council’s updated position and the business case; and
  4. Council otherwise take steps to make this information accessible to local residents and to encourage residents to make individual submissions to the IPART Review in support of Council’s position.

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