Tag Archives: ellsmore

Council considers legal options to challenge amalgamations

Media release, 21 October 2015

Marrickville Council is seeking urgent legal advice about its options to fight any attempt to sack or force a merger by the NSW Government, following a motion passed at its Council meeting at its October 2015 meeting.

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore moved the motion, and said, “Marrickville Council does not support forced amalgamations. The community has told us it does not want Marrickville to merge with neighbouring Councils, and we will explore every avenue to protect our strong Council and the community services it provides.

“The IPART Assessment of Councils report released yesterday was no surprise. It found two thirds of Sydney Councils ‘unfit’ – not because they don’t have strong finances, but because they are smaller than the NSW Government wants.

“Marrickville and surrounding Councils, including Leichhardt, Ashfield and Strathfield – were found to meet all the criteria to be ‘fit’, except ‘scale and capacity’. Under the rigged criteria Marrickville Council could have a billion dollars in the bank and we would still have been found ‘unfit’, because we’d still be too small in the government’s eyes.

“Current NSW laws do not give the Minister the power to sack strong, functional Councils like Marrickville. The Minister also cannot change the boundaries of Councils (ie force mergers) without holding a public inquiry.

“However, with so few Sydney Councils taking up the State Governments pro-development amalgamation agenda, the release of the report has seen the State Government step up its threats about sackings.

“Prior to the release of the report yesterday morning, Liberal Premier Mike Baird held a web conference with Sydney Mayors at which he advised they had ‘one last chance’ to voluntarily merge.

“Only an hour later, upper house MPs for the Shooters and Fishers, Fred Nile, the Greens and the ALP were holding a press conference with the ‘Save our Councils’ coalition outside Parliament, confirming they would block any attempts to change legislation to force amalgamations. Without one of these groups the Liberal Government doesn’t have the power to change legislation in the NSW Parliament.

“The Government’s amalgamations agenda isn’t going to plan, and they know it. It is our responsibility as a Council to ensure that we are ready to act if the State Government does something stupid, like mass sackings of Councils. We will work with neighbouring Councils on legal options to challenge any action by the State Government to harm Councils outside the current laws,” Clr Ellsmore said.

More information:    Clr Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213

Greens State Planning Spokesperson David Shoebridge MLC 0408 113 952

 

What Marrickville Council passed

The amended text of the motion passed 20 October 2015 (Item 15):

That Council:

  1. Receive urgent legal advice as to its options to fight any decision or order made by the Minister for Local Government or Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government, to place Marrickville Council into administration pending forced amalgamation or implementation of the State Government’s Fit for the Future policy in respect of amalgamations;
  1. The legal advice should include:  a) Whether the findings of the IPART Report “Assessment of Council Fit for the Future” released on 20 October 2015 provide any grounds to the NSW Government to sack councils or force boundary changes;  b) Whether the State Government has any options to bypass or shortcut the public inquiry requirements of boundary changes; c) In the case where part or all of the Council was sacked, who would have standing ie the right to bring a court case, and what remedies would be available; d) If a sacked Council could access Council resources to undertake a challenge; and e) What are the prospects and risks of any action.
  1. Urgently liaise with other Sydney Councils about opportunities for coordinated legal and other options to fight any attempt by the NSW Government to sack Sydney Councils.

 

Highlights from the findings of the IPART ‘Assessment of Councils Fit for the Future Proposals’ released on 20 October 2015

Download a copy of the full report here: IPART Assessment of Councils

(At page 2) IPART assessed 87 Council proposals as not being fit for the future, which represents 63% of the proposals received.

Of the 87 proposals assessed as not fit, 60 were assessed as not having sufficient scale and capacity, but did meet the financial criteria [this includes Marrickville]

The main reasons for councils being assessed as not having sufficient scale and capacity included that “A merged entity could better integrate planning and development, resulting in improved planning decisions and enhanced economic growth.”

(at p9) IPART “assessed all Inner Metropolitan Sydney councils that had a preferred merger option, but submitted a stand-alone proposal, as not fit, as they did not meet the scale and capacity criterion.”

(at p 49) Details of the findings for the “Inner West” Councils are contained at 2.1.2 of the IPART Report, including proposed inner west merger map.

IPART found that “Ashfield, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield (are) not fit for the future as they did not meet the scale and capacity criterion although each Council met the financial criteria overall.

IPART accepted the independent modelling commissioned by these Councils [the Morrison Lowe Reports available on Marrickville Council’s website] and found $396 million in benefits from merging over 20 years spread across the 6 Councils. [The fine print on p283 reveals this figures “includes the full government grant”]

Independent modelling commissioned by IPART through Ernst & Lowe found a much lower figure of benefits – $194 million per annum over 20 years. [Divided between the 60 Councils that’s less than $2 million p/a each. That is less than 2% of Marrickville’s operating budget. Importantly, it is significantly less than Marrickville Council has already achieved in efficiency dividends itself over the last 3 years, and it matches or is less than further Marrickville Council is already on track to achieve under its current 10 year financial plan.]

The assessment table showing Marrickville Council meets the financial stability criteria is attached at p105.

The two page report on Marrickville Council specifically is included at p283.

Council’s bike budget hits $1.2 million

Marrickville Council’s bike budget will be more than $1 million this financial year (2015-6), following a strong boost in Council’s internal budget and several successful grant applications. Campaigning by the Greens and bike groups last year led to a doubling of Marrickville Council’s  internal bike budget. The further increases this year meets the broader campaign target set by the Greens, and indicates the growing recognition within Council that building bike paths are “core business” for Council.

Questions on Notice by the Greens (linked and extracted below) reveal the details of the proposed spending, which was debated and passed with the support of the Greens Councillors, Labor Councillors and the Mayor as part of the 2015-6 Marrickville Council Budget at Council’s June meeting. Liberal Councillor Tyler and Independent Councillor Macri voted against the budget in its entirety.

Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore, who is the Chair of the Marrickville Transport Committee and a regular cyclist, said: “The bike spending of $1.2 million in a single year is a very significant increase. It comes off the back of years of campaigning by local residents, bike groups and the Greens.

“Local residents put a high value on building new, safe bike paths, as the inner west has one of the largest and fastest growing group of cyclists. Importantly, the Marrickville Local Government Area also now has the largest percentage of women cyclists of any Local Council area in NSW, at 26%[i],” Clr Ellsmore said.

Clr Ellsmore said, “Over the last few years Council has made significant new investment in its roads and footpaths. The Greens have been arguing for a long time that bike paths, just like footpaths, are key infrastructure and deserve proper investment.

“The Greens ran a campaign in the lead-up to last year’s budget vote calling for a significant increase for bike path. At the time, research released by the Greens showed that only 9% of the priority bike paths in Council’s Marrickville Bike Strategy 2007-2016 had been completed.

“As a result of the flood of submissions we received from commuters, families and recreational cyclists calling for greater investment in bike paths, Council voted to increase the amount of money it was committing from own coffers to last year’s bike budget by $200,000. Council also agreed to better integrate bike path planning with Council’s general road and footpath upgrade programs.

“The proposed 2015-6 bike path budget doubles the bike budget again, and makes good on Council’s promise to make building better bike paths part of our core business. Building better bike paths is an important part of making our local areas safer, healthier and more liveable,” said Clr Ellsmore.

The proposed new spending includes planning for several regional bike routes paths, as well as completion of a number of existing bike projects, as detailed in the Answers to the Questions on Notice tabled at the 19 May 2015 Council meeting (attached). A further late $200,000 grant was received, on top of the spending outlined in the 19 May 2015 Questions on Notice.

The draft Marrickville Council Budget 2015-6 also includes other significant increases to other Council infrastructure including roads, footpaths, stormwater drains and parks. Details of the 2015-6 Council budget can be found at Item 4 of the 19 June 2015 Marrickville Council meeting papers at

http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/en/council/elected-council/business-papers/

More information: Details of the Greens 2014 bike funding campaign can be found at

https://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/budget-win-for-cyclists/

End Notes

[i] See details in the Super Tuesday Bike Commuter Count 2015, available to download from https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla_content/files/Bike%20Futures/Counts/SuperTuesday/2015/ST2015%20Report_NSW_Summary.pdf . Marrickville Council participated in the count for the first time in 2015, following a Greens Notice of Motion. The count includes a sample of a number of sites. Sites will be expanded in future years.

Details of spending

A full copy of the answers to the Questions on Notice can be downloaded here – 150519 Mville Council QoN Bike Path Funding.

Extracts:

2015-05 Answer 205-6 Proposed Budget

*Note – These figures combine internal and external grant funding. 2013/4 included some significant grants from the State Govt.

For 2015/6 a further grant was received after May 2015. The 2015/6 figure includes $500,000 allocation by Council directly – the largest ever provided – with the additional income from government grants following a significant increase in the number of grant applications made by Council for bike projects.

2015-05 Answer to Q15 Bike Plan total cost

2015-05 Answer to Q14 Bike Plan

      

The State Govt grants for 2015/6 are a mix of planning and implementation – noting an additional grant was received post May 2015.

   2015-05 Answer to Q16 Bike Plan Grants

Labor elects ex-Liberal Mayor

Media release 24 Sept 2014

The Labor-Liberal alliance on Marrickville Council last night voted to elect conservatives for both Mayor and Deputy positions. Despite an offer that would have ensured an ALP Mayor, the three Labor Councillors voted for Clr Mark Gardiner as Mayor and Clr Morris Hanna as Deputy. Clr Gardiner was one of two Liberals elected for the first time to Marrickville Council in 2012. Last Friday he announced he was becoming an independent.

“The Greens’ Councillors were so concerned about the conservative takeover of what has previously been a strong, progressive Council that we had offered to vote for a Labor Mayor this year,” said Greens Mayoral nominee Sylvie Ellsmore.

Over the previous two years of the Council term, the first time that Liberals have been  elected to Marrickville Council, the Greens have consistently raised concerns about development decisions being approved that exceed or short-cut Council planning laws.

Clr Ellsmore said, “Our offer did not require the Labor Councillors to vote for a Greens  Mayor, but instead asked Labor commit to some basic outcomes for the community, including greater transparency in development decision making.

“Last night’s decision shows local Labor would rather have a conservative mayor than risk shining a light on some of the recent development decisions of this Council.

“This was a disgraceful ceding of control over a Council with a proudly progressive history to conservatives – and in exchange for what? The ALP clearly had to offer so much to the conservatives through the deal that they were unable to field a candidate for even the Deputy Mayoralty position,” said Clr Ellsmore.

The Greens are aware that the deal between Labor, the Liberals and the Conservative  independents was personally brokered by the local MP and ALP faction heavy, Anthony Albanese.

Clr Ellsmore said, “This is a decision with significant consequences. It is a worrying sign for local progressive voters that this is how “Local Labor” does business, and how far they will go to avoid real transparency.”

The outgoing Mayor and Marrickville Councillor Jo Haylen is Labor’s candidate for the state seat of Summer Hill and helped broker the arrangement with the Liberal Party. Former Marrickville Councillor Penny Sharpe is Labor’s current candidate for the new State seat of Newtown.

“In the inner city, as across the State, it is clear just how much the major parties have in common. The Greens will continue to hold the new Mayor to account, and to work with the community to win back respect and trust in our democracy,” said Clr Ellsmore.

Media contact: Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore 0403 977 213

More information

The Greens on Marrickville Council have four elected Councillors. There are three Labor Councillors, two Conservatives Independents and, until Councillor Gardiner’s official resignation from the Liberals last week, two Liberals. 

Newly elected Councillor Mark Gardiner has previously clashed with the Greens after his unsuccessful bid to shut down the Newtown community markets. For more information see Oct 2013 post “Newtown Markets Saved!

In 2013 the ALP made any arrangement to elect one of the Liberal Councillors Deputy Mayor in exchange for Liberal support for an ALP Mayor. See September 2013 post “Labor-Liberal Alliance on Marrickville Council continues

In 2012 the ALP made an arrangement with the Liberals to support one of the Conservative Independent as Mayor with an ALP Deputy.