Councils are being ‘urged to merge’. Proposals are to merge the 42 Sydney Councils into 10 or 15 larger Councils. There is evidence from other States that Council mergers can return significant benefits. In our area, Willoughby Council is being urged to merge with Hunters Hill, Lane Cove, Mosman, and North Sydney. When Willoughby Council was first chartered it included the current area of Lane Cove Council. A large part of the council area was also known as North Sydney.
Currently, Willoughby Council is part of the Northern Regional Organisation of Councils. This includes: Willoughby, Hornsby, Ryde, Kur-ring-gai, Lane Cove Hunters Hill and North Sydney. For planning purposes, Willoughby is part of a regional group comprising Willoughby, Ryde, Lane Cove, Hunters Hill, North Sydney and Mosman.
At this stage, Council mergers are voluntary. However, in the future it is likely that Councils will be denied access to funds unless they merge.
Another issue with Council mergers is local representation (the number of Councillors). In the past many Councils have held referendums about the number of Councillors and Wards. Largely, people have voted to reduce numbers. Take for instance West Ward. There are only two of the three elected Councillors servicing the Ward.
The biggest issue with voluntary mergers is that both senior Council staff and Councillors would be concerned that they may ‘lose their job’.
It will be interesting to see how the State Government progresses this matter.