Palerang Mayor Cr Pete Harrison has warned that “All of our independent analyses,… indicate that (a merger with Queanbeyan) would not be without serious and unnecessary pain, the more so for Palerang than Queanbeyan residents because they will invariably be in the minority.”
“With the public inquiry process now complete, the Minister is expected to announce his intention with respect to the various merger Proposals before the end of the month. In line with the response to our community surveys, Council has opposed all of the merger Proposals involving the Palerang LGA and our various submissions are available by following the Merger Proposals link from the home page of the Palerang Council website” said Cr Harrison.
Quite apart from any other aspect of the Proposals, all independent financial assessments that have been based on actual data, rather than the generalised estimates used by the NSW Government in preparing the Proposals, indicate that any merged Council would be a financial disaster. One of the reports commissioned by Queanbeyan City Council even commented that the full merger Proposal would cause “finances and infrastructure to markedly deteriorate over the four years to 2019/20 making it impossible to achieve financial sustainability without horrendous increases in fees and charges thereafter”. Indicative figures put rate increases in excess of 50% and [water and sewer] charges increases in excess of 200%.
While Palerang Council has consistently held the position that there is no practical or acceptable way to overcome the various problems inherent in these Proposals, Queanbeyan City Council (QCC) has offered its conditional support.
A central element of the QCC conditions, however, is that Bungendore be excluded from protection under Section 218CA of the Local Government Act, which quite simply would give any new Council the ability to reduce staff numbers in, or even close the Bungendore office.
Regardless of the intentions of either Palerang or Queanbeyan City Council, it needs to be noted that, from the second that any Proclamation [to merge Councils] is issued, neither of the current Councils will exist. The Proclamation will define the conditions surrounding the new Council, and it will be the new Council thereafter that will make all relevant decisions.
This new Council would be governed by the laws as advised in the relevant Proclamation. If those laws include exempting Bungendore from s.218CA, then the new Council, administrator or elected members, depending on the time, would be able to make any decision they liked with regard to staffing in Bungendore. They could increase staff numbers, they could keep them the same, or they could reduce the numbers to the point of closing the Bungendore office. It will not be any current Council that makes this decision, so any comments or commitments made by any current Council with respect to the intent of any exemption will be irrelevant—they will have no say in the matter because they will no longer exist.”
“If there is no exemption granted with respect to Bungendore and s.218CA, the new Council will not be permitted to reduce staff numbers in Bungendore. Period. In a growth area such as Bungendore and its surrounds, this should be of no consequence because one would expect staff numbers to keep increasing if services were to be expanded or service levels were to improve, as has been suggested in the Minister’s Proposals” said Cr Harrison.
“In the end, if the Minister proceeds with a merger regardless of community sentiment, Palerang staff and councillors will contribute as they are able to provide the best outcome for Palerang residents. All of our independent analyses, however, indicate that this would not be without serious and unnecessary pain, the more so for Palerang than Queanbeyan residents because they will invariably be in the minority.”
Cr Harrison concluded: “I would encourage concerned residents at this point to write to our local members John Barilaro ([email protected]备案老域名) and Dr Peter Hendy ([email protected]备案老域名), and let them know how you feel about the merger Proposals. This is now our only remaining avenue to influence the ultimate decision.”
Queanbeyan City Council Mayor Cr Tim Overall says there has been “some confusion about the intent of certain aspects of Queanbeyan City Council’s submission and I would like to clarify a number of inaccuracies in Palerang’s submission.”
Cr Overall said “To make it clear – if a merger goes ahead, whether it be a full or part merger, it is not the intention of Queanbeyan City Council to cut jobs in Bungendore and Braidwood. All staff positions within the new entity are protected for a minimum of three years under the award. The legislation maintains current council job numbers in the townships in Palerang in perpetuity. The intention of QCC’s submission is to create a sustainable and flexible council that delivers quality services to the community in a cost efficient manner.”
Meanwhile a council-commissioned report leaked to the Queanbeyan Age has painted an alarming situation, with many pieces of infrastructure at breaking point and a council unable to afford to fix it.
The Age says “The Queanbeyan council has been warned of dire impacts of mounting debt, and a merger with Palerang would result in “horrendous” increases in rates, fees and charges. General manager Peter Tegart engaged local government financial expert Professor Percy Allan to undertake an independent Asset and Financial Sustainability Review in August last year, to help shape the long term budget and determine future rates and charges in Queanbeyan.”
A Queanbeyan Council Spokesman said : –
“A financial strategy, incorporating recommendations from the review undertaken by ProfessorPercyAllan, will be reported to the April Council meeting for endorsement by Council and exhibition for public comment. Following the exhibition period, the strategy will inform the development of Council’s Long Term Financial Plan.
The asset and financial sustainability review undertaken by ProfessorAllanexamined a number of scenarios to enable greater investment in renewal of infrastructure to achieve the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future benchmark of a 2% asset backlog. The NSW Government has recognised Queanbeyan City Council’s backlog as 1% and Palerang Council’s as 27%.
It is worth noting that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal assessed Queanbeyan City Council as financially sustainable based on the data contained in the adopted Long Term Financial Plan, however it was deemed to not meet the scale and capacity criteria. IPART also acknowledged that Palerang Council was deemed financially fit, however this is understood to be based on a 9.5% Special Rate Variation over five years.
Council’s draft 2016-17 budget, which will also be presented to the April Council meeting, is based on the adopted Delivery Program 2013-17, Queanbeyan remaining standalone and does not include any of thePercyAllanrecommendations.”
The NSW Opposition is calling on the Baird Government to immediately release key reports prepared by delegates on forced local council amalgamations. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley MP said “These public consultations are a total sham. The Baird-Grant Government pretends to be listening to communities but instead they are being completely ignored.”
“Why is this Premier continually withholding information from the public? He said.
However on Tuesday Ku-ring-gai Council inSydneyforcedthe Baird government to hand over a report on its proposedmerger with Hornsby Council.Ku-ring-gai Council took its case to the Land and Environment Court and then to the Supreme Court and succeeded in liberating the report from the government’s grasp.
Mayor Cheryl Szatow pronouncedthe report “superficial and misleading” and a foregone conclusion.”
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