72 per cent of people are against council mergers, survey finds

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17th August 2015 11:36 - Local Government

Results from an online survey have revealed that 72 per cent of people are against NSW local government reforms, meaning that they do not want their council to merge with others.

Conducted as part of an Upper House inquiry into NSW local government reforms, the survey findings represent a bleak outlook for NSW Premier Mike Baird’s Fit for the Future agenda, with three quarters (or 75 per cent) of the respondents revealing that they did not think that combining councils would better the financial sustainability of their council. As well as this, 73 per cent said that they believed the council’s key services could be put in jeopardy, should the merger be put into action.

The survey findings also showed that just short of two thirds were not impressed with the methodology used by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which will decide whether local councils have the scale and capacity to function on their own, or if they should merge with their neighbouring councils.

Even if the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal said that amalgamations were the right thing to do, 74 per cent of people still opposed being forced to merge.

When looking at who responded to the voluntary online survey, it was found that just 6 per cent of the participants were under 30 and 41 per cent were over the age of 60. Of all the respondents, 1 in 3 were between 45 and 59 years old.

It can be said of the respondents that those over 60 are generally heavier users of their council’s services and so are perhaps more inclined to be against the amalgamations.

David Shoebridge, Local Government Spokesperson and Green Party MP, claimed that the findings indicated that the community was not sold on the government’s idea of creating larger councils.

"This non-partisan survey confirms that the government has no community support to force council mergers on unwilling communities,” said Shoebridge.

“Communities can’t even get a straight answer from the Minister on whether or not local council elections will be held in September next year,”

“This lack of frankness from the government is reflected in the suspicion survey respondents show regarding the Fit for the Future agenda.

“When the government gives them no answers, communities are rightly concerned that Fit for the Future will come at a real cost to their local services, council performance and local identity.”

“Even the Chief Executive of Local Government had to publically admit this week that she had no evidence to support the notion that forced amalgamations produce lower council rates.”

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