Fraser queries council costs
FORCED local government amalgamations have wasted almost $250,000 to create the impression of community involvement, according to member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser. Mr Fraser, the Opposition's spokesman on local government, said yesterday more than $220,000 had been paid to facilitators of regional reviews initiated by the Carr Government. The decision to amalgamate four councils to form the Clarence Valley Council was the result of one regional review. "Labor established regional reviews after breaking its preelection promise not to force council amalgamations across NSW," Mr Fraser said. "Premier Carr and Local Government Minister Tony Kelly were not interested in what communities had to say. "The facilitators simply delivered reports in line with the pre-ordained outcomes dictated by the minister." Mr Fraser revealed David Simmons was paid $65,542.98 in the 2003/04 financial year for his work on the Clarence Valley and Albury regional reviews. Mr Fraser said Mr Carr and Mr Kelly had always contended that forced amalgamations would deliver cost savings and better services. "The money wasted on these regional reviews, plus the fact we're already seeing rate rises as a result of Labor's forced amalgamations, with no corresponding increase in services, makes a lie of Labor's cost savings argument," he said. A spokesperson for Mr Kelly said the minister made no apology for committing extra funds to going above and beyond what was required by the Local Government Act. The regional reviews allowed competing proposals to be addressed at once, rather than in separate hearings. She said administrators in the new councils were making savings while delivering improved services.