A sustainable future for local government

25 June 2013

The submission responds to the Panel’s discussion paper Future Directions for NSW Local Government: Twenty Essential Steps. The paper was released in April and detailed proposals for widespread changes to the NSW local government sector.

In its proposal AlburyCity supports:
- The establishment of a Strategic Projects Fund for roads and bridges to help reduce the state-wide infrastructure backlog
- The creation of a state-wide Local Government Finance Agency designed to bring down interest costs on borrowings
- The removal of rate pegging, or a change to rate pegging that would allow councils to levy up to 3% above the annual rate peg if compliant with Integrated Planning and Reporting
- All local government audits being the responsibility of the Auditor General’s office
- The concept of a Regional Roads Group to oversee projects of regional importance
- An IPART Review of the regulatory and compliance burden on NSW local government
- The appointment of a Local Government Development Board to support a concerted program of reform.

A proposal that would eliminate AlburyCity’s ability to choose how its Mayor is elected will not be supported. Council will advocate that the ability to choose popular election or Councillor vote for Mayoral elections should be retained.  

Council has no definitive stance on the proposal for a merger between AlburyCity and Greater Hume Shire, citing a lack of pertinent information. Council has called on the Department of Local Government to undertake further work if amalgamations are a serious long-term prospect.

Council is also tentatively supportive of the proposal to create 20 County Councils tasked with regional level functions but expressed its concern at the risk of introducing another layer of bureaucracy into local government.

Mayor Alice Glachan said Council’s submission endorsed financial sustainability for the sector without compromising a council’s ability to deliver services and programs for its community.

“The Local Government sector needs to work with the State Government to ensure a sustainable future of Local Government across the state, but also one that reflects the needs and aspirations of our communities,” she said. “The Independent Local Government Review Panel, along with the State Government, is making a strong indication that change is required in the sector. We are supportive of changes that will ensure greater clarity, better governance and adequate funding for the sector.”

Mayor Glachan said it was too soon for Council to support or reject proposals for an amalgamation between AlburyCity and Greater Hume Shire.

“There would need to be a clear and demonstrated benefit to our residents and the sector before amalgamations could be supported. In regards to Albury it’s far too soon to have a definitive stance on the prospect of an amalgamation with Greater Hume Shire. Without a fully developed business case prepared by the Department of Local Government and a state-wide manual for implementation it is impossible for us to support or reject the proposed amalgamation.”

“Either way there would need to be financial incentives and clear evidence that Albury residents would not be underwriting the cost of services used by residents of other communities. If DLG is serious about amalgamations then it must complete a comprehensive business case as a critical first step.”

Residents are welcome to make a submission to the Review Panel by Friday 28 June. More information about the proposed changes can be found at www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au

The Panel is due to make its final report to the Minister for Local Government in September.