The State Government of NSW via the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has been looking at how local councils will stack up over the next twenty years. That is, they have been seeing if local councils are “Fit for the future”.
The process started back in 2011 and it has recommended Hornsby Shire voluntarily merge with Ku-ring-gai Municipality, creating a Local Government Area of approximately 280,000 people and one single Local Government Association or council. The State Government has offered $10 million to councils who agree to amalgamate voluntarily to cover transition costs and an extra $10 million to provide assistance to community infrastructure projects.
The reason why the NSW State Government made the recommendation to merge Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby is that it can see $88m in administrative savings which can be diverted in to community services over ten years.
Hornsby Shire Council has welcomed the report and is happy to merge. Hornsby was identified as meeting all of IPART’s benchmarks except for the size of LGA, which was recommended to be 280,000 subsuming Ku-ring-gai.
“However, that is not an ideal outcome because it ignores the tremendous benefits that could be achieved through amalgamation.”
Meanwhile Ku-ring-gai council has decided that it meets the State Government’s benchmarks for the future and wants to go it alone. In particular, Ku-ring-gai feels that it will be swallowed-up by Hornsby rather than merged with it and will lose much of its identity.
“There is no logical reason for us to merge,” said Mayor Cheryl Szatow speaking after the council meeting at the end of October. “We are financially strong and our residents have overwhelmingly said they don’t want to become part of Hornsby.”
“I call on the government to reconsider their position on coercing us to merge with Hornsby.”
While both Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai exceeded all the Government’s criteria for finance, infrastructure and services, neither is large enough to meet the requirements for population size under the IPART benchmarks.
“It’s clear that our councils need to merge and that process will be much easier if we can do it cooperatively,” Hornsby Shire Mayor Steve Russell said.
“We have an opportunity to achieve something great for the people who elected us and we need to take advantage of that.”
Any council opposed to the IPART Fit for the future plan has until November 18th to register its objections.