what is the future for our local councils?
On Thursday Drive, Mick Paddon interviewed Green Party MP David Shoebridge about the State Government’s plans to reform local government. David Shoebridge is one of seven members of a Parliamentary Inquiry looking into the State Government’s agenda for what could be the most significant reform program for local councils for a generation. That agenda, called ‘Fit for the Future’, was made public almost one year ago. It covers virtually every aspect of local government but the most controversial proposals are about potential council amalgamations- in metropolitan Sydney it is suggested that five councils in the eastern suburbs, including the city of Sydney, should either merge to form a single mega council and there is a similar proposal for six councils in the inner west of the City. The individual councils had to respond to the Fit for the Future agenda by the end of June. Since then a number of local councils have been mounting campaigns to remain independent.
In the interview recorded here David Shoebridge tells us the councils are not alone and there is considerable opposition to the suggested amalgamations from across the political spectrum which will also make it difficult for the State Government to legislate to enforce mergers on reluctant councils. However, the preoccupation with mergers has distracted attention from issues which are potentially more fundamental to the future of councils and where there is the potential for widespread agreement. The State Parliamentary Inquiry was set up in May and is due to report in October.