Proposed council amalgamations
Mayors unite against forced council mergers
Council amalgamations – the background
In 2014, the State Government announced a major local government reform program – Fit for the Future – that will impact the way councils operate across NSW.
As part of this announcement, the majority of councils in metropolitan Sydney were grouped together according to location and demographic to potentially form larger 'super councils'.
The City of Canada Bay was grouped with five neighbouring councils in the inner west: Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield. All of the six councils are against forced amalgamations.
The NSW Government has since proposed a merger option of Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield with Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville grouped separately.
On 12 May 2016, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Local Government Paul Toole announced the proclamation of 19 new councils across NSW, including the Inner West Council of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville.
The Minister has indicated his in principle support to create a further nine new councils, including the merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield, pending a decision by the courts.
Read below for the latest updates.
NSW State Government amalgamations fall at first legal hurdle - media release - as at 3 June 2016
The State Government’s plan to merge the City of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils has fallen at the first legal hurdle, with the proposal now withdrawn, says Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas.
“It is ironic that our first submission to the State Government proposing an alternative merger option was rejected – despite it being deemed ‘fit for the future’ by IPART and now the Government’s merger proposal has been rejected by the courts,” Mayor Tsirekas said.
“This is an embarrassing back down by the State Government, which gives our Canada Bay community a reprieve. But for how long? We just don’t know.
“We would hope this decision is not politically motivated and if so, it would be disappointing for our community."
City of Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas said the decision demonstrated the failings in the State Government’s forced council amalgamation platform and highlighted that councils, such as Canada Bay, were indeed “fit for the future”.
“Throughout this whole drawn-out process, our preferred position has been to stand alone. We have proven that we are a strong and financially sustainable Council,” he said.
“While we don’t have all of the findings before us, we understand there were some serious flaws in the delegate’s report about the merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield.
“We understand the State Government has requested the delegate re-visit and re-submit his report and that fresh Boundary Commission hearings may need to occur.
“We are not aware of how long this might take or what it means for the long-term future but for the moment, it is a win for our community and for democracy.”
Mayor Tsirekas said the State Government’s process from the beginning had never had any clear direction.
“This is the now the third change in the State Government’s process in relation to the City of Canada Bay. We have invested significant resources, including funds, to ensure we were well prepared in the event the State Government did proceed as we did not want our community to be disrupted,” he said.
“The clear message from the State Government through this entire process was that 'stand alone' was not an option – and that is why we acted responsibly to ensure our community was not put in a vulnerable position.
“Now we are told it could be on the back burner or starting all over again. Yet again, we are in an uncertain environment with no direction from the State Government and no communication about ‘what next’ from the Minister’s Office.“We are talking about a proposed community of 170,000 residents yet we still don’t know what the future of that community is.
“We would like to thank our community for its ongoing support during what has been a very unsettled time.”
NSW State Government announces council amalgamations proclamations - 12 May 2016
NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Local Government Paul Toole today (12 May 2016) announced the proclamation of 19 new councils across NSW, including the Inner West Council of Ashfield,
Leichhardt and Marrickville. The Minister has indicated his in principle support to create a further nine new councils, including the merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield, subject to the decision of the courts. The announcement also included a list of
interim General Managers and administrators.
More information can be found here about the proclamations: http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/regulations/2016-242.pdf
Extraordinary Council Meeting held on Thursday, 25 February 2016 to endorse Submission to Boundaries Commission - 26 February 2016
Council held an Extraordinary Council Meeting on Thursday, 25 February to endorse the City of Canada Bay's draft Submission to the Boundaries Commission on the State Government's proposed amalgamation of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield councils. The Submission will be lodged with the NSW Government delegate Richard Colley - who has been appointed to examine the proposed Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield merger plan - by deadline on Sunday, 28 February.
In addition to responding to the factors contained in Section 263 (3) of the Local Government Act, the Submission also focuses on arrangements to assist in the smooth transition to any new entity, specifically the recommendation that the Mayor and four Councillors be appointed to any Transition Committee. View the full report here.
Public inquiry sessions to deal with proposed amalgamation of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils - 15 January 2015
NSW Government Delegate Richard Colley has announced a public inquiry to deal with the proposed merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils will be held on Thursday, 4 February over two sessions:
Where: Canada Bay Club (4 William St, Five Dock)
Date: Thursday, 4 February 2016
Time: 1-5pm and 7-10pm
Members of the public who would like to attend must register via the Council Boundary Review website or by calling 1300 813 020. If you would like to speak at the public inquiry, please indicate your wish to do so when you register to attend. Members of the public may only speak once at the inquiry and the order of speakers will be determined by the Delegate.
More information: www.councilboundaryreview.nsw.gov.au
State Government releases new details of proposed merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils - 8 January 2015
Further information outlining the next steps in the NSW Government's proposal to merge Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils has been released.
You can view and comment on the merger proposal on the Council Boundary Review website.
Richard Colley has been appointed as the Delegate to examine the Burwood, Canada Bay, Strathfield amalgamation plan. His role will be to assess and report on the proposal, including reviewing submissions and holding a public inquiry.
Mr Colley will meet with Councils in late January/ early February and announce the times, dates and locations of public inquiries.
Community members will have a chance to have their say on the merger proposal during the submission period, which is open until 5pm Sunday, 28 February.
Delegates will review the proposal and submissions and collate a report to be handed to the Boundaries Commission for comment.
Outcome of Extraordinary Council Meeting on 23 December 2015 regarding Fit for the Future Update - 24 December 2015
At the Extraordinary Council Meeting (23 December 2015), Council resolved to revert back to its original position of 'standing alone' and reject the State Government's proposed merger of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield. See the Mayoral Minute.
Council will now prepare a submission to the Boundaries Commission on the basis that the City of Canada Bay will 'stand alone'.
More info: http://bit.ly/1JwgRyY
State Government hands down decision on NSW council mergers - 18 December 2015
NSW Premier Mike Baird today announced 43 Sydney Metropolitan councils would be reduced to 25 and regional councils from 109 to 87 under the State Government's structural reform plan for local government.
According to the State Government's merger map, City of Canada Bay will be amalgamated with Burwood and Strathfield councils.
In early January 2016, the Minister for Local Government will refer detailed merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report under the Local Government Act. The Chief Executive will delegate the function of examining and reporting on each merger proposal to other people (Delegates). In examining merger proposals, Delegates will conduct a public inquiry, call for written submissions, and prepare a report with due regard to the factors in the Act.
The factors in the Act include financial considerations, communities of interest, elected representation, employment of staff, service and facilities, and the attitude of residents and ratepayers. The report of the Delegates will go to the Minister as well as the independent Local Government Boundaries Commission for comment.
In response to this news, City of Canada Bay will hold an Extraordinary Council Meeting on Wednesday, 23 December to determine the best way to move forward in the interest of our community.
IPART submits its assessment of NSW Council 'Fit for the Future' proposals to the State Government - 20 October 2015
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory
Tribunal (IPART) has recently provided the
NSW Government with its report on the
assessment of 139 Fit for the Future council
proposals (received from 144 councils).
This report card provides a snapshot of
what IPART found.
IPART assessed the proposals against
the following criteria:
- Scale and capacity
- Financial criteria:
- Financial sustainability
- Infrastructure and service
In its report card, IPART listed City of Canada Bay's merger proposal with Auburn City and Burwood Councils as one of nine 'fit' Councils going forward, with the majority of Sydney Metropolitan Councils that elected to stand alone deemed 'unfit'.
The State Government has given all Councils, particularly those deemed unfit, 30 days to respond to IPART’s report. From our perspective, we have been asked to look at any further options for improving our submission.
The Mayors of City of Canada Bay, Auburn City and Burwood Council's have released a joint statement on IPART's 'fit' determination. You can read it here.
Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government Reform
The Legislative Council is undertaking a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Fit for the Future reforms. The Terms of Reference for this inquiry are wide-ranging, and incorporate a number key issues local councils have been raising on behalf of their communities, including the concern that the key focus has been on structural reform which has stifled productive discussion on other important reform opportunities. Submissions to the inquiry were due on 7 July, 2015 and a copy of our submission and a link to the inquiry can be found at the bottom of this page.
Fit for the Future merger proposal - as at 1 July, 2015
Three councils in Sydney’s inner west could soon become the Sydney Olympic Park City Council with Auburn City, Burwood and City of Canada Bay lodging a joint merger submission to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal on 30 June, 2015. The decision to explore a merger comes following the State Government’s strong indication that ‘no-change’ is not an option for councils. The proposal focuses on a new entity to be known as Sydney Olympic Park City Council.
The merger proposal can be found here
To find out more about IPART and Fit for the Future click here.
Council amalgamations - status as at 24 June, 2015
The City of Canada Bay believes it is Fit for the Future and can stand alone, however, we have also been advised by the Office of Local Government and the Minister for Local Government that doing nothing and not addressing the Fit for the Future amalgamation options will not be an option. This leaves us with no choice. The inner west mega Council of Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield is not viable for our community or our Council. Independent research shows rates will rise, infrastructure will suffer and our community will lose its voice. While we have seriously considered completing the stand-alone template, we have very real concerns this will not be accepted and we will be forced into the inner west mega Council. To do nothing was to put our entire community in a vulnerable position.
The City of Canada Bay alone meets the majority of the State Government's Fit for the Future benchmarks, but we do not meet the important “scale” benchmark of 250,000 residents. Below is a breakdown of the two amalgamation options:
State Government’s proposed merger Canada Bay, Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield Councils:
- Residential rates to increase 10-12% Business rates to increase up to 75%
- Service levels drop
- Slowly deteriorating infrastructure
- Meets population benchmark
- Meets only four out of seven financial and asset management benchmarks
Alternate merger – superior option Canada Bay, Burwood, Auburn Councils:
- Long-term savings of $140 million over 10 years
- Rates remain stable
- Service levels maintained
- Better infrastructure
- Strong connectivity between Councils with Parramatta River, transport hubs and major facilities
- Key strategic centres including Sydney Olympic Park, Rhodes and Burwood Protects local town centres and villages
- Financially best option for our residents Meets population benchmark
- Meets six out of seven financial and asset management benchmarks
To read more about the State Government's stance on local government amalgamations, including our local member for Drummoyne, please click here: State Government Hansard - local government reform
Mayor’s Message: An open letter to our community as at 22 June, 2015
As Mayor, I have always had the best interests of our community in mind. Making the decision to sit down and talk to our neighbouring councils about a possible merger proposal has not been an easy one. But, it is quite clear that the State Government is serious about merging Sydney councils and, as the Minister for Local Government has said, doing nothing is not an option.
I have been honoured to be your Mayor, and it has been a privilege to lead a unified team of councillors from all political persuasions, setting a progressive agenda that's seen an improvement in our built and natural environment to the benefit of all our residents.
I understand that many residents may not agree with our decision to submit a proposal to merge with Burwood and Auburn but if circumstances were different and the State Government was not putting councils in this position, we would not be going down this path. Our preferred position would be to stand alone, that has not changed. We believe that being proactive and submitting a proposal to merge with Burwood and Auburn, we take away the possibility of the State Government imposing a merger with Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield, that would see rates sky-rocket, services drop and infrastructure slowly deteriorate.
Having a seat at the table and leading on this issue puts us in a stronger position and gives our community a sustainable and strong economic base. We have, however, kept the door open to remain stand-alone should the State Government change its requirements either by review or the current Legislative Council Inquiry.
Mayor Angelo Tsirekas
Council amalgamations – media release - as at 22 June, 2015
Local Government merger update from the City of Canada Bay
As at 16 June, 2015, the City of Canada Bay has made a decision to submit a merger proposal with neighbouring Councils in Burwood and Auburn. This stance over-turns the position outlined in the recently distributed Bayside Brief, which went to print prior to the decision.
The decision has been made for the following reasons:
- The State Government has confirmed “stand alone” will not be considered
- It has been confirmed Councils will be assessed on scale and capacity – with a population minimum of 430,000 by 2031 – the City of Canada Bay alone will NOT reach this target
- If we continue down the “stand alone” path, we will be deemed “not fit” by the State Government and IPART (Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) who are assessing submissions
At the City of Canada Bay’s 16 June, 2015 Council Meeting, a Motion of Urgency was put forward, following concerns a stand-alone submission would see the City of Canada Bay in a vulnerable position.
“We have always said we are Fit for the Future and would prefer to stand-alone but there has been real concerns following last week’s decision that doing nothing would put us in the firing line for a forced merger with five other inner west Councils,” City of Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas said.
“All of the communication from the State Government indicates submitting a stand-alone proposal will mean we are deemed not fit. As a Council, we have worked too hard and delivered too many great initiatives for our community to be labelled 'not fit'.
"It’s not something that sits comfortably with any Councillors – or staff – so we need to look at the best option for our community and our organisation. Entering back into discussions with our western neighbours is the right thing to do."
As part of the Motion, Council has kept the door open to remain stand-alone, should the State Government change its support for the current Fit for the Future requirements and has retained the right to review the resolution should the criteria or reform program change.
“We have been looking at a range of options over the past nine months, including the State Government’s preferred option of an inner west mega Council involving us, Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield. Independent modelling on this option has been undertaken by Morrison Low demonstrating that financially, for the long-term future of our community, this simply does not stack up,” Mayor Tsirekas said.
“If we do nothing, and we are forced into the inner west mega Council option, it could have serious consequences for our community. We don’t want our residents in a situation where their rates will rise, their services will drop and their infrastructure will slowly deteriorate.
“We needed to seriously consider what proposal would provide the best long-term solution and a strong economic base for our residents. Looking at this option offers a plan for the next 20 years and beyond – it’s not about what is convenient for now.
“Do we want the best for our residents? Do we want to look to the future and opportunities for a strong local economy and thriving community? Yes we do. The best way to do this is to explore our options going west towards Sydney Olympic Park where opportunities for a new Council will be greater.
“Amalgamation is not our preferred option but we don’t believe we have a choice but to explore what is best for the City of Canada Bay and our community.”
Council amalgamations - initial discussions with inner west Councils - 2014 to early 2015
In late 2014, the City of Canada Bay worked with Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt and Marrickville to ensure our communities understood the full impact of the proposals and to also undertake research about what it might mean.
We signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together to prepare responses for the State Government and to voice concerns about the potential of forced amalgamations.
The City of Canada Bay worked in partnership with Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt and Marrickville to engage Morrison Low to undertake independent research to provide evidence to help inform our response to Fit for the Future.
The report identified that a merged inner west mega council will overall not be of benefit to our community. This report is available to the public: Morrison Low - Fit for the Future.
A joint media release issued by Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay, Leichhardt and Marrickville councils was also distributed about these joint discussions regarding Fit for the Future.
You can still send feedback about the Fit for the Future program via firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out about the Fit for the Future proposals, visit: fitforthefuture.nsw.gov.au
To find out more about the Local Government Review Panel and its findings, visit: fitforthefuture.nsw.gov.au/background
Council amalgamations - public meeting - Thursday, 19 March
Thank you to our community who attended the public meeting on Thursday, 19 March at Concord RSL and Community Club to hear about the State Government’s proposal to amalgamate councils. There was a strong showing of community spirit at the meeting with many people asking what they could do to stop Canada Bay being forced to merge with Ashfield, Burwood, Leichhardt, Marrickville and Strathfield.
Our community want a voice on this issue and those who attended voiced their opposition to becoming part of an inner west mega-council.
Labor Candidate for Drummoyne Jason Khoury and Greens candidate for Drummoyne Alice Mantel also attended the meeting. Liberal member for Drummoyne John Sidoti, MP was an apology at the meeting. A representative from Morrison & Low, who prepared an independent study for five of the six inner west councils, also attended to talk about the findings of the report.
Both the Labor and Green candidates declared their parties were opposed to forced amalgamations. Mr Sidoti presented a written statement outlining the Government’s commitment to local government reform and highlighting the Fit for The Future program.
Page last updated on: 06/06/16