Last year the State Government announced its local government reform package 'Fit for the Future'.
The Government's recommendation was that Lane Cove merge with five other local councils - Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Willoughby, Mosman and part of Ryde.
Council has until June 2015 to respond and demonstrate that it has the scale and capacity to be 'Fit for the Future'.
What is Council doing about this issue?
Lane Cove was one of the few Councils who wrote to its community in 2013 to highlight the potential impact of the Local Government Reform.
In addition, a public meeting was held on Wednesday 12 June 2013 along with community consultation to seek feedback on the Future Directions for Local Government Paper. Council then made a submission on behalf of the Lane Cove community.
In October 2013 the Independent Local Government Review Panel released its report Revitalising Local Government. The NSW Government delivered its response to the recommendations of the Independent Panel and Acts Taskforce on 10 September 2014, with the launch of the Fit for the Future package.
At its meeting of the 15 September 2014 Council stated its position against forced amalgamations and called for a public meeting on 8 October to discuss the NSW Government's proposed changes to the system of Local Government in NSW and the impact on Lane Cove Council, as well as to gauge the community's views. At its Ordinary Council Meeting of 13 October 2014 Council reviewed a report that outlined the outcomes of the meeting.
Approximately 100 concerned residents attended the community information evening with the attendees unanimously opposed to any mergers or amalgamations of Lane Cove Council, citing amongst others the following reasons:-
- Loss of local democracy;
- Diminution of access to Councillors and Council's staff;
- Loss of sense of community;
- Concerns about responsiveness; and
- Impact on efficiencies in service delivery and provision.
As a result of the overwhelming concerns, Council at its meeting on 13 October 2014 formally considered its position on the State Governments Fit for the Future Package and resolved that:-
- "Notwithstanding the size of the Lane Cove Local Government Area and that Council has no debt, Council believes that is 'Fit for the Future' and therefore does not need to amalgamate with any other Council(s);
- Council advise the Minister for Local Government of this decision
- Council advise NSROC of this decision; and
- Council initiate a public awareness campaign that highlights the most important issues for our community and reasons for Council's decision."
Since the Council Meeting, the Mayor and General Manager have met with the Minister for Local Government, the Hon Mr Paul Toole expressing the concerns of the Lane Cove Community and Council and outlining how effective and sustainable Council is as an independent entity.
There was an Extraordinary Meeting of Council on 21 January 2015 to further consider Council's response to the State Government’s "Fit For The Future" Program which proposes Council amalgamate with five other surrounding Councils.
Councillors and General Managers from Seven northern Sydney councils met on the 5 February 2015 to consider a collective response to the NSW Government's Fit for the Future local government reform agenda which includes the merger of councils. The majority of those attending confirmed their opposition to any forced merger of councils.
On Monday 16 March an alliance of local councils in the Northern Sydney region joined together for the #keepcouncilslocal campaign. The campaign will assist in communicating to the community the impacts of the proposed Fit for the Future package and reiterate Council's concern that there is no updated commitment from the State government on no forced mergers.
The Mayor wrote to the community on 26 March to provide an update to residents and inform the community that consultation will take place in May in the form of an online survey and public meeting.
A public meeting was held in the Council Chambers on Thursday 7 May.
Council is currently producing its response to the Fit for the Future program and this month will consult with the community to gauge their feedback.
This will involve a deliberative poll as well as an online survey. For more details visit www.lanecove.nsw.gov.au/haveyoursay.
Council's response is due by 30 June 2015.
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