After protesting for a number of years that Willoughby Council opposed amalgamations, this week the same Council voted to voluntarily merge with North Sydney Council !!!
This move came after renewed pressure from the State Government.
Some Willoughby Councilors opposed to amalgamation argued that based on the results of community consultation, residents are not in favour of amalgamation. The same statistics were used by others to prove that residents favoured some form of amalgamation.
Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion to voluntarily merge with North Sydney Council. Clrs Coppock and Saville were on leave. Clr Stevens was absent, having left the meeting early.Clr. Wendy Norton removed herself from the Chamber before the vote was taken and returned after the vote. Clr. Saville has subsequently indicated that she would support voluntary amalgamation. Clrs. Poccock and Stevens were asked if they support the motion. No responses has been received.
A recent letter sent to Councils by the Premier and the Minister of Local Government appears to contain veiled threats that Councillors who do not support voluntary amalgamations may suffer the consequences. Councillors who vote in favour of amalgamation have been promised that they will remain in office until their term expires in September 2016. Subsequently it has been determined that all Councilors on a Council who voted to voluntarily amalgamate will retain their seats.
An illogicality about the decision by Willoughby Council to amalgamate with North Sydney is that the State Government has mandated that voluntary amalgamations must address its ‘scale & capability’ metrics. To meet these metrics, Willoughby Council would need to merge with Mosman, North Sydney, Lane Cove, Hunter’s Hill and part of Ryde Council. So Willoughby Council’s decision is a real ‘paper tiger’.
An opportunity was lost by Willoughby Council to broker an arrangement whereby the neighbouring Councils could work together to achieve the State Government’s objectives without the need to amalgamate (such a model has been offered to rural, regional and remote Councils)..
The Premier has previously promised that Councils will be advised of their fate before the end of the year.
The following perspective has been provided by Clr. Erikson:
“The State Government has made it absolutely clear they will not entertain the idea of JRA’s there is no ability to even submit this idea to the Govt on the template we have to submit on the 18/11, therefore I believe it is not productive for WCC to discuss this further.
On scale and size, the indication I have been given from State Govt representatives is that they want councils to ‘find a friend’ they don’t want to see 6 into 1 councils but rather 3 into 1 or 2 into 1 for our area, therefore I do believe they will accept a Nth Syd and WCC merger after all if they did that to all Metro Councils it would still halve the number.”
Editor: We suspect that what the Government is running is a classic ‘divide and conquer’ strategy. Once a Council has shown preparedness to amalgamate, other Councils may change their minds to ensure they are not left out. This could result in a ‘dance ticket’ far different from what was originally expected. This is supported in the communique you received yesterday from the Premier and Minister. It makes it clear that intransigent Councils will summarily be dealt with. Re the JRA, I still believe this is something Council could have pursued (outside of the template) if necessarry.
In the North Shore Times of 13th November, Council Saville is reported as supporting ‘voluntary council amalgamations’
Our President writes: the current state of the Council amalgamation, noting that the “Facing the Future” deficiencies of a combined Willoghby and North Sydney Council would be the sum of the deficiencies of the present separate Councils.
It sees unlikely that reduced staff with wider more diversified responsibilities could generate extra efficiencies.
In any case, willoughby’s turn around time on DAs is quite short, and is largely determined by community exhibition, submissions and consequential staff report generation essential to democratic community participation, This moderates the whimsy of architects and their frequent disregard of limits set in ministerially approved Local Plans developed by Councils with lengthy cycles of public exhibition and submissions .