November 1 - 7, 2015: Issue 238
FFTF Facilitators Found Faulty: 'No Means No' Chant Continues
FFTF Facilitators Found Faulty: 'No Means No' Chant Continues
There have been plenty of ‘F’ words flying this week, not all them complimentary to those voted into power, vested with our Trust, and entrusted to honour their words.
For Pittwater a Mayoral Motion is currently available to read on Pittwater Council’s website filed under the Monday November 2nd Council Meeting which lists options for proceeding and includes a proposal to hold a Public Meeting prior to November 16th to assist our Council with Pittwater residents preference going forward and also proposes that the Honourable Member for Pittwater be invited to that proposed Public Meeting.
Mayoral Minute - Response to IPART Report - Options to Discuss may be accessed here:
Pittwater Council is required to respond to the State Government by November 18.
Three other factors have manifested this week Pittwater peoples may be interested in having a more leisurely perusal or deeper scrutiny of.
One is the perpetuated chanting of KNOW WE MEAN NO, which saw over 300 locals gather at Winnermerrery Bay on a weekday, at down tools time, at a few days Notice. Pittwater Councillors attended the Rally, in their work clothes, as there are no suave suits, flash chauffeured cars or big bellies funded here.
On the same day a sign was being made so it could be made clearer that No definitely means ‘No’, the General Purpose Standing Committee No. 6. released it’s report on its State Enquiry Local government in New South Wales (Inquiry).
Their headline; ‘Committee finds local government reforms ‘unfit’- Media Release and link to full report, Recommendations and Findings runs below.
The day before Thursday, Wednesday 28th of October 2015, the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015 was passed, unamended, through the lower house and had its first reading in the Upper House of State Government. Introduced by Pittwater’s representative in state politics, the Hon. R Stokes, on Wednesday October 22nd, the insertion of a certain clause in this Bill could be construed as a further surreptitious dismantling of Local Councils abilities to guide, or guard, their areas as per their residents wishes.
Part 3B is the ‘clause for concern’ as is seeks an Amendment of Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 No 203 and will authorise the Greater Sydney Commission to make local environmental plans for local government areas in the Greater Sydney Region and also allow, if a Sydney planning panel is constituted for a part of the Greater Sydney Region, any joint regional planning panel constituted under section 23G (1) of the Planning Act for that part of the Greater Sydney Region, will be taken to be abolished on the constitution of the Sydney planning panel.
You can access the Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015, along with Hon. R. Stokes speech regarding this here:
http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/nswbills.nsf (Greater Sydney Commission Bill 2015,PDF- 1.57 MB)
‘Baird's eye view’ of Pittwater saying 'NO' mega council
29 Oct 2015
In an act of solidarity, the people of Pittwater have sent a clear message to Premier Mike Baird expressing their opposition to forced amalgamations and a mega council for the northern beaches.
In a powerful show of unity and determination, earlier today some 320 Pittwater community members stood on the shores of Winnererremy Bay, Mona Vale and formed a human ‘NO—‘NO to forced amalgamation and ‘NO to a mega council.
Deputy Mayor, Cr Kylie Ferguson and General Manager, Mark Ferguson addressed the Pittwater community, who all wore striking blue caps and assembled in the ‘NO’ in a last protest to being forced to merge. Drone photography captured the inspirational moment the ‘NO’ was formed marking this historic event.
“My fellow Councillors and I are committed to being the voice for our community—that’s democracy. This gathering and sharing of our collective voice — that’s also democracy. Forced mergers that are blatantly against the fabric of our community’s wishes—that’s NOT democracy,” Cr Ferguson addressed the crowd.
General Manager Mark Ferguson says Pittwater’s people fought 23 years ago to stand alone, and they won’t be forced into a mega council for the northern beaches without a fight.
“There’s just too much at stake for them,” he said.
“Today’s gathering is another testament to the commitment and character of our passionate councillors, community and staff, who won’t give up” Mr Ferguson said.
Speaking out today as a united voice comes after IPART deeming Pittwater ‘unfit’ because of ‘scale and capacity’.
“Although we meet every other Fit for the Future financial criterion incorporating sustainability, infrastructure and efficiency measures, we’ve been told we don’t have a big enough population”, said Mr Ferguson.
Councillors will consider the report and discuss options before determining a way forward at Council’s next meeting on Monday 2 November 2015.
Results from independent research and Pittwater Council’s community engagement have consistently demonstrated overwhelming rejection to a mega council.
To stay informed, please visit www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au/reform
Find the full IPART report at www.ipart.nsw.gov.au
This is your last chance to SPEAK UP! Tell Premier Baird what you think
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Available at Mona Vale and Avalon customer service centres & libraries.
Sign your name and place postcards in boxes provided at these locations or mail directly to Premier Baird.
The Hon. Mike Baird, MP OR The Hon. Rob Stokes MP
Shop 2, 2 Wentworth Street 1725 Pittwater Rd
MANLY NSW 2095 MONA VALE NSW 2103
Committee finds local government reforms ‘unfit’
29 October 2015
The parliamentary committee inquiring into local government in New South Wales tabled its final report today. The inquiry focused on the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future reform program for local government.
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
29/10/2015 Local Government in New South Wales (Final Report PDF - 3.79MB ): www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/committee.
Request made to Govt for a Response: Thursday 29 October 2015 (Mandatory)
Government's Response Due: Friday 29 April 2016
Recommendations and Findings:
Recommendation 1 44
That the Premier and NSW Government withdraw the statements that 71 per cent of councils in metropolitan Sydney and 56 per cent of regional councils are ‘unfit’.
Recommendation 2 45
That the NSW Government provide all local councils in New South Wales access to the proposed Fit for the Future incentives, regardless of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s assessment of whether a council is ‘fit’ or ‘unfit’.
Recommendation 3 65
That, as part of its planned review of the rating system, the NSW Government evaluate the option of the removal of rate pegging and allow councils to determine their own rates conditional on the delivery of a local works plan outlining the expenditure associate with any proposed rate increases and demonstrated community support.
Recommendation 4 65
That the Minister for Local Government work cooperatively with the NSW local government sector to petition the Australian Government to reverse its decision to freeze the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants.
Recommendation 5 66
That the Minister for Local Government work cooperatively with the local government sector to petition the Australian Government to seek to redistribute Financial Assistance Grants in order to direct additional funding to councils with the greatest needs, provided councils with the capacity to raise additional local revenue are able to do so.
Recommendation 6 66
That the NSW Government eschews future cost shifting and commits to providing adequate funding to local government for any new services, assets or regulatory functions that it devolves to local councils.
Recommendation 7 67
That the NSW Government ensure that those water utilities that are currently operated by local councils remain under the control of those councils.
Recommendation 8 91
That the Office of Local Government, in consultation with the Audit Office of New South Wales and local government representatives, develop guidelines to ensure greater consistency across councils in the treatment of assets, including:
• a depreciation methodology that more closely correlates with the actual condition of
deterioration and considers the councils’ priorities for the condition of the infrastructure
• quantifying the useful life of an asset
• determining the realistic residual values of assets
• the componentisation of assets.
Recommendation 9 118
That the NSW Government implement the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s recommendations to strengthen the independence of the Boundaries Commission and ensure a robust and consultative process is in place to consider council amalgamation proposals before any further steps are taken by the government in relation to council amalgamations.
Recommendation 10 119
That the NSW Government implement a program to assist and support senior staff affected by amalgamations, particularly those staff in regional areas who may need to relocate if their position is lost through an amalgamation.
Recommendation 11 120
That the NSW Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations of local councils, except in circumstances where it can be established that a council is severely financially unsustainable to the point of bankruptcy or unable to maintain an acceptable level of service provision.
Recommendation 12 137
That the NSW Government consider amending the Local Government Act 1993 to allow for a period of transition between a decision to merge councils and the creation of the new council, to ensure effective planning, consultation, implementation and ongoing service delivery to communities.
Recommendation 13 150
That the Minister for Local Government encourage local councils with council-elected mayors to initiate a referendum on whether the mayor should be popularly elected or elected by councillors.
Recommendation 14 151
That the NSW Government seek to amend the Local Government Act 1993 to increase to two years the period a mayor elected by the councillors is to hold office.
Recommendation 15 151
That the NSW Government consider amending the electoral legislation to introduce donation and spending caps for candidates at local government elections.
Recommendation 16 167
That the NSW Government make Joint Organisations available to all councils in New South Wales.
Recommendation 17 167
That the NSW Government work with local government on a statutory model for JointOrganisations based on the Hunters Hill, Ryde and Lane Cove Council model as a cooperative and consensus model for local council reform in Metropolitan Sydney.
Finding 1 43
While the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has significant capacity to analyse the finances of local government it does not have the demonstrated skills or capacity to assess the overall ‘fitness’ of councils as democratically responsible local bodies.
Finding 2 43
That the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s appointment to the role of Independent Advisory Panel occurred too late in the Fit for the Future process and that the 30 June 2015 deadline for council proposals was too short.
Finding 3 44
That the recommendations of the Independent Local Government Review Panel that were unrelated to structural reform should have been implemented before considering amalgamations.
Finding 4 44
That the Fit for the Future reforms provided a positive impetus for local councils to review their long term financial sustainability and improve their performance, but the methodology prescribed by the government was too restrictive and rushed for councils to take full advantage of the process.
Finding 5 90
That the scale and capacity criterion was a flawed criterion and it should not have been included in the Fit for the Future assessment criteria and accordingly assessments of councils’ fitness based on this threshold criterion are not well-founded.
Finding 6 92
That there is significant uncertainty about the reliability of many of the Fit for the Future performance measures, which undermines the validity of the Fit for the Future assessment outcomes.
Finding 7 118
That the Boundaries Commission process was strongly supported by many organisations including Local Government NSW, and a strengthened and more independent Commission may make up for some of the flaws in the Fit for the Future process to date.
Finding 8 137
That the NSW Government failed to build on the consultative approach established during Destination 2036 to develop a road map for the future of the local government sector, and appears to have neglected to adequately consult with the community, or effectively partner with the sector, to continue those reforms.
Finding 9 137
That the projected economic benefits of council amalgamations have been consistently overstated by the proponents of forced amalgamations and the costs and extensive diseconomies of scale caused by amalgamations have not been adequately explained by those same proponents.
LGNSW Welcomes Parliamentary Report
October 29th, 2015
The NSW Government has failed to make a case for forced council amalgamations, and "unreliable" criteria necessitates the withdrawal of Government claims councils are unfit, according to the findings of a Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government which have been welcomed by the sector.
The Inquiry, headed by the Hon Paul Green MLC, tabled its 272-page report in the NSW Parliament today, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Baird Government's Fit for the Future process and calling on the Government to cease its plans to force council mergers.
Local Government NSW President Clr Keith Rhoades AFSM welcomed the report, which also called for an end to cost-shifting and long-term State Government policies and practices which undermine good financial management in Councils.
"For years now LGNSW has called for meaningful local government reform - not pointless structural change but reform designed to overcome systemic funding model failures and create the stronger councils we all want," Clr Rhoades said.
"We have pointed out over and over again that structural change is not the answer - that there is no evidence that council mergers create downward pressure on rates, or improve services to residents and ratepayers.
"For much more than a year now we have been urging the Government to 'Fix the Funding First' - and consistent with evidence from the Chair of the Government's own Review Panel - if this path had been taken then the need to expend political capital by forcibly amalgamating councils against community wishes would not exist."
Clr Rhoades said the Legislative Council inquiry also criticised the "scale and capacity" criterion used by IPART to slur the majority of NSW councils as "unfit" for the future, thereby misrepresenting their true status to the community.
"The Inquiry said the scale and capacity criterion was problematic, ill-defined and difficult to measure objectively - and yet the Government and IPART selected this as the one criterion councils had to meet to be found fit," he said.
"LGNSW argued vociferously that this criterion was a Catch 22 for councils, because they could only win the right to stand alone by showing scale and capacity, and they could only show scale and capacity if they agreed to amalgamate in line with the Government's preferences.
"That criterion, now discredited, is the only reason IPART could declare the majority of NSW councils "unfit", and claim NSW's system of local government is broken.
"Almost 92% of metropolitan councils and 76% of non-metropolitan councils met the IPART financial criteria overall, despite the systemic funding challenges. That's hardly broken despite what the Government says.
Other key Inquiry recommendations welcomed by the sector included:
That the NSW Government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations, unless councils could be proven to be virtually bankrupt or unable to maintain an acceptable level of service provision
That the State Government cease its cost-shifting practices and ensure adequate ongoing funding accompany services, assets or regulatory functions handed over to local councils
Council-operated water utilities remain under council control
That the option to form Joint Organisations - a collective arrangement designed to provide efficiencies without diminishing local democracy or identity - be open to all councils in NSW, not just those selected by the State Government. The Inquiry commended the "cooperative and consensus" Hunters Hill-Ryde-Lane Cove model as providing a good basis for local council reform in metropolitan Sydney.
Implementation of the Independent Local Government Review Panels recommendation that the Boundaries Commission - the body which reviews proposed council amalgamations - be strengthened and made more independent before any NSW council amalgamations take place
That all councils have access to Fit for the Future funding incentives, irrespective of IPART's Fit/Unfit finding
That Local Government Minister Paul Toole work cooperatively with the sector to seek a reversal of an indexation freeze on federal Financial Assistance Grants.
"We commend the Inquiry for its comprehensive and balanced approach - this is a strong report, and the sector will continue to review its findings over the next few days," Clr Rhoades said.
"In the interim, I would urge Local Government Minister Paul Toole to heed the Inquiry's findings and recommendations: they highlight the clear path that can be walked collaboratively by the State Government and local councils to deliver lasting and meaningful sector reform to the people and communities of NSW."
Premier Baird isn’t a magician, he has no secret powers to sack councils
October 30, 2015 : NSW Greens Media Release
Legal advice obtained by the Greens NSW: http:/2015/10/Memorandum-of-Advice-Local-Government-Amalgamations-.pdf
Legal advice obtained by The Greens makes it clear that neither the Premier or the Minister for Local Government have secret powers to sack or suspend councils to force amalgamations. The independent barrister’s advice confirms that the Local Government Act seriously constrains the ability of the government to undertake a political sacking or suspension of councils to appoint tame administrators that agree to amalgamations.
The advice draws a number of important conclusions:
1. If a council stands firmly with its residents to opposed to council amalgamation this forces the government to send proposals for amalgamations through a rigorous process that must involve the independent Boundaries Commission. Unlike IPART’s Fit For the Future assessment, this process is governed by an established set of statutory criteria that are not rigged in favour of amalgamations
2. There are clear remedies available to councils and councillors, such as injunctions and orders, if the government attempts to misuse the Local Government Act
3. The IPART findings and report cannot be used as a substitute for the legislative process and inquiries required under the Local Government Act
4. There is real legal doubt as to whether or not IPART had the legislative authority to conduct the investigation it did into local government
5. If a council gives in to the Premier’s bullying and resolves to ‘voluntarily’ amalgamate, the only legal effect of this is to prevent the amalgamation proposal being reviewed and commented on by the Boundaries Commission.
See further reporting in the Sydney Morning Herald below:
If a council was improperly sacked then there are two methods whereby where the rights of the community and councillors could be vindicated and proceedings continued in court to reinstate the council. They are:
• A number of councils have already passed resolutions providing that legal proceedings are to be immediately commenced by the council to reinstate the council if it is sacked and an administrator appointed. If the new administrator seeks to discontinue these proceedings then individual councillors and community groups can seek their own advice on being joined to those proceedings and pressing the case, even if council does not.
• In a number of councils where this resolution (to legally challenge the appointment of an Administrator) has been agreed to, a rescission motion to overturn this decision has been put and defeated. Under the Local Government Act once a rescission motion has been lost this prevents the decision being reviewed or reconsidered by the council for a minimum period of three months. In such councils, even if the Administrator wanted to overturn the decision to prosecute the proceedings, the failed rescission motion would prevent this happening.
Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“IPART was not qualified, either in terms of its experience or in its legislative remit, to conduct the investigation it did into local government.
“The IPART process was an experience and ultimately fultile dead end for the Baird Government. The findings of IPART cannot be used as a legal basis to move against any council, and it is quite astonishing the Premier has not realised this.
“This advice makes it clear the Minister can’t just dissolve or amalgamate councils at his whim. the NSW Constitution provides that the government cannot subvert the process that has been laid down by Parliament.
“The Baird government is trying to bully councils into ‘voluntary’ amalgamations because they know that the alternative is a long drawn out inquiry with the Boundary Commission.
“Many councils and councillors are feeling that the government has some secret power to force them to agree to so-called voluntary amalgamations or face the sack.
“What this shows is that the Premier isn’t a magician, he doesn’t have secret powers and the law severely limits what he can do to local councils,” Mr. Shoebridge said.
Pictures by A J Guesdon, 2015