Council approves merger proposal submission
24 February 2016
Willoughby Council endorsed its submission in response to the State Government’s merger proposal of Willoughby City Council and North Sydney Council at its meeting held on 22 February, and has delegated authority to the General Manager to finalise the report.
Council’s submission is based on careful consideration of community feedback, research and data as well as a deep understanding of the local communities. At the heart of it, is Council’s recognition that communities create community and the sense of place; the sense of belonging. Council recognises that the communities’ aspirations need to be served in creating the new entity and that the maintenance of community cohesion is paramount.
Following Council’s decision and business case in June 2015 to remain a stand-alone council, it was found unfit, along with 71 per cent of other NSW councils by IPART’s Fit for the Future assessment criteria on the basis of scale and capacity, despite meeting financial criteria.
Council subsequently nominated a voluntary merger proposal with North Sydney Council to achieve that scale and capacity.
The State Government’s response is a critical success factor for the merging councils and the communities of the Lower North Shore and a genuine partnership and engagement with communities is sought by Willoughby City Council.
The submission presents a balanced view of the pros and cons to the inquiry Delegate, Ian Reynolds, and includes:
- Options for addressing concerns that that larger wards and local government area will increase the cost of campaigning and inhibit opportunities for independent candidates; a tradition in both Willoughby and North Sydney Councils
- Commentary on the veracity of estimated savings
- Recommends due diligence for the merging entities to independently establish their financial, liability, risk and asset baselines at the time of the merger
- Presents options to address community concerns regarding local representation which include options for the number of Wards and indicated Council’s preference.
Six different options for Ward boundaries are explored (covering four, five and six wards), taking into account competing factors including:
- creating completely news wards or wards that follow existing boundaries;
- the number of Councillors;
- creating wards with increased diversity versus wards with similar communities; and
- developing boundaries around Census, planning, infrastructure and transport factors.
Council resolved to include all options in the final submission but expressed a preference for the five ward options with three Councillors per Ward, with a Mayor elected by Council. It was noted that a future Council could go to a referendum to determine a mandate for a popularly elected Mayor.
With regard to merger proposal boundary realignments, recommendations were made regarding the unification of St Leonards and Roseville Chase, The St Leonards CBD and suburb are currently split across three councils, namely Willoughby, North Sydney and Lane Cove. Council seeks to unify the suburb within one local government area to improve strategic land use and infrastructure planning through the extension of the boundary to include that part of St Leonards currently contained in the Lane Cove Council. Residents in Roseville Chase could also be united in the one council area, if they wish.
Council will also request the State Government release the whole merger financial modelling report prepared by KPMG.
The draft submission can be viewed as Item 15.1 on the Agenda of Monday 22 February 2016’s Council meeting at www.willoughby.nsw.gov.au.
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