Local Govt NSW calls for equality among councils

The long-term success of the 11 Joint Organisations for regional NSW announced on Tuesday would come down to ongoing collaboration and funding, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said.

LGNSW President Linda Scott was speaking after the announcement that more than 70 councils had teamed up with regional neighbours in formalised alliances designed to develop strategic influence and help achieve economies of scale.

“LGNSW has advocated for the creation of Joint Organisations for NSW councils, and we welcome the NSW government’s actions to create them in the regions,” Cr Scott said.

 “We want to help ensure that these legislated bodies genuinely do take the Regional Organisation of Councils model, instigated by local government, to the next level.

“That’s why we will continue to call for the same opportunity for metropolitan councils.

“The benefits of Joint Organisations do not just apply in the regions, which is why metropolitan councils should also be eligible for funding to form these formal organisations.”

Cr Scott said the legislation governing Joint Organisations was also lacking.

“At present there is no legislative mechanism for a council to join the Joint Organisation of their choice, nor to leave if the process fails to deliver for their community,” she said.

“The decisions are at the discretion of the Minister, and this is a matter for concern. There are councils that have sought to form a Joint Organisation, and the NSW government has not allowed them to proceed.

 “If councils – such as those in the far west of NSW – wish to form a Joint Organisation, the NSW government must respect their wishes and allow them to do so.”

LGNSW welcomed the $300,000 in seed funding granted by the NSW government to establish each new regional Joint Organisation, but Clr Scott noted that the government had not offered any longer-term funding.

 “A number of LGNSW’s members have found the 2016 amalgamations that were imposed on them have cost far more to implement than the government estimated and provided for,” she said.

“They’re now having to meet this cost from their existing budget, which means potentially less investment in community infrastructure and services.”

Cr Scott said the key to the success of the Joint Organisations was a collaborative and collegiate approach which took a long-term view.

“I call on the NSW government to also work urgently with that small group of councils to ensure their individual wishes are respected and the Joint Organisation arrangements finalised.”