Parliamentary Inquiry into Fit for Future Reforms

The NSW Legislative Council has finalised its Parliamentary Inquiry into the ‘Fit for the Future’ reforms and published its final report on the 29 October 2015.

The full report is available from NSW Parliament.  The Executive Summary is also available

The report makes 17 recommendations and nine findings. The Chair of the committee, the Hon Paul Green MLC, said ‘We found that many of the Fit for the Future measures are unreliable and we therefore called on the NSW Government to withdraw its statements that 71 per cent of Sydney councils and 56 per cent of regional councils are ‘unfit’ for the future. We also recommended that the Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations other than in exceptional circumstances.’

Mr Green continued, ‘This committee has listened to councils and other stakeholders around the state and we were concerned that what began as a consultative approach to reform, driven by both the State Government and the sector itself, has descended into a rushed and flawed process, which has focused too much on council amalgamations.’

‘Reforming local government is nothing new, but it is vital that we get the right reforms at the right time and in the right order, if we want to get this sector back on track. We’ve seen how committed councils are to their communities and we know that they are keen to keep improving. The Government needs to build a bridge and get back to working with the sector, so that councils across this state can keep on building the bridges we need, maintaining the roads we use and providing all of the other services that our councils deliver.’ ‘I call on the NSW Government to take heed of our report and reconsider its plans for the future of local government before any steps are taken in relation to council amalgamations,’ concluded Mr Green.

The committee’s report, along with other information about the inquiry, is available on the committee’s website: www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/localgovernment

Strathfield Council Submission

Council has lodged its submission to the inquiry.  Other submissions made to the Inquiry can be viewed here.

Inquiry Transcripts and Hearings

Agendas of Inquiry hearings and their transcripts can be viewed here.

Terms of Reference

That General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6 inquire into and report on local government in New South Wales and in particular:

(a) the New South Wales Government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ reform agenda,

(b) the financial sustainability of the local government sector in New South Wales, including the measures used to benchmark local government as against the measures used to benchmark State and Federal Government in Australia,

(c) the performance criteria and associated benchmark values used to assess local authorities in New South Wales,

(d) the scale of local councils in New South Wales,

(e) the role of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in reviewing the future of local government in New South Wales, assisted by a South Australian commercial consultant,

(f) the appropriateness of the deadline for ‘Fit for the Future’ proposals,

(g) costs and benefits of amalgamations for local residents and businesses,

(h) evidence of the impact of forced mergers on council rates drawing from the recent Queensland experience and other forced amalgamation episodes,

(i) evidence of the impact of forced mergers on local infrastructure investment and maintenance,

(j) evidence of the impact of forced mergers on municipal employment, including aggregate redundancy costs,

(k) the known and or likely costs and benefits of amalgamations for local communities,

(l) the role of co-operative models for local government including the ‘Fit for the Futures’ own Joint Organisations, Strategic Alliances, Regional Organisations of Councils, and other shared service models, such as the Common Service Model,

(m) how forced amalgamation will affect the specific needs of regional and rural councils and communities, especially in terms of its impact on local economies,

(n) protecting and delivering democratic structures for local government that ensure it remains close to the people it serves,

(o) the impact of the ‘Fit for the Future’ benchmarks and the subsequent IPART performance criteria on councils’ current and future rate increases or levels, and

(p) any other related matter.

Committee membership

  • The Hon Paul Green MLC, Christian Democratic Party (Chair)
  • The Hon Lou Amato MLC, Liberal Party (Deputy Chair)
  • The Hon Catherine Cusack MLC, Liberal Party
  • The Hon Ben Franklin MLC, National Party
  • The Hon Peter Primrose, Australian Labor Party
  • Mr David Shoebridge MLC, The Greens
  • The Hon Ernest Wong MLC, Australian Labor Party