Last month the City of Sydney held an Extraordinary Council meeting to endorse the City’s submission to the Fit for the Future Local Government reform process. The Baird Government appears increasingly determined to reduce the number of Councils and Local Government representatives. The Greens oppose forced amalgamations and I firmly believe that the success of local government is its ability to have a close and responsive relationship with the communities that it represents.
Currently the Government is proposing to merge the City of Sydney with Botany Bay, Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra Councils. This would create a Council with a population the size of Tasmania. Polls conducted across these Councils indicate that residents are unhappy with this proposal. The City’s submission provides a strong case for remaining independent. You can access the submission here: http://sydneyyoursay.com.au/Your-City
In my own work as a full time Councillor I have advocated for a large number of residents, particularly in relation to the maintenance of Housing NSW properties as well as other matters. Much of this work would not be possible if I was representing an area many times the size of the City of Sydney. Mega-Councils will mean that residents get much less access to their elected representatives. It will also mean that many independents and representatives of minor parties would simply not have enough money to run election campaigns for Councils that have 500 000 citizens. Representation in Mega-Councils would be left up to the wealthy and those standing for major parties.
The Baird Government has failed to articulate a positive vision for the future of local government. Their approach to local government does not understand the complexities of the communities that we represent. While some Councils may face different financial circumstances than the City of Sydney they do so for a wide variety of reasons. To put it simply, there is little relationship between the size of a Council and its financial position. If forced amalgamations go ahead democracy will be sacrificed for the sake of neo-liberal ideology about efficiency.
Members of the public and community groups can make submissions to the Fit for the Future process from now until 31st of July.