2015 will pose many issues for Willoughby Council.
For the first time in over 20 years Council Officers will be led by an ‘outsider’. In 1993, after decades of Town Clerks, Council (encouraged by the State Government) recruited a General Manager (Michael Beilby) from outside local gavernemnt. This proved to be a short-lived experience. Four years later, Council promoted the then Director of Insfrastructure Services (John Owen) to the role of General Manager. On John Owen’s retirement, Council again promoted from within. This time Nick Tobin, the then Corporate Services Director.
With the appointment of Debra Just (see separate article) Council has again gone outside the existing organisation. Ms Just, like her previous two predecessors, has been promoted from previous ‘Directors’ roles to the top job of General Manager. We can only hope that this proves a wise choice by Council.
It will be crucial that the new General Manager (Ms Just) establishes herself quickly and firmly within the existing experienced General Magaers representing the other Councils of the Northern Regional Organisation of Councils). With the spectre of amalgamation becoming a reality, it is important that Willoughby Council achieves a central position in deliberations. Both the Mayor and the General Manager need to grasp the ‘amalgamation’ issue and set the standard.
On 28 March 2015, NSW goes to the polls to elect a new State Government.The outcome from this election is likely to have a significant impact on NSW local government. In particular, post the election it is expected that the State Government will increase pressure for Councils in the Sydney area to amalgamate.
Much of the pressure for Council amlgamations in Sydney has come from groups associated with property developers. They want a simplified and faster process to have their developments approved. The fear with such reforms is that local communities lose their voice and are not consulted as they have been in the past.
Anticipating the pressure for structural change to local government, the West Ward Progress Association has led an initiative to linkup with like-minded associations and groups across the lower North Shore. It is hoped by this initiative that we can assist Willoughby maintain it central position with[n the region.