Doubts raised over forced council amalgamations

LABOR has attacked the Baird Government for hushing up whether councils deemed "unfit for the future" will be forced to amalgamate.

Every local government in New South Wales has been ordered to prove its financial stability and create a roadmap towards prosperity ahead of a statewide independent review later this year.

Dozens of Sydney councils are not expected to make the grade, with several North and Mid North Coast councils also in question.

Shadow local government minister Peter Primrose said the government had refused to answer whether administrators would be appointed for councils considered unsustainable.

He said queries about the fate of councils that did not choose to amalgamate voluntarily had also gone unanswered.

"Councils are paying a lot of money to do these reports. It's not unreasonable to hope the government had thought about what was going to happen next," he said.

"(Local Government) Minister Paul Toole either won't say or doesn't know.

"When he refuses to answer simple questions and instead resorts to evasion, you'd be forgiven for suspecting there is an ulterior motive at work here."

Two-thirds of NSW councils are running combined deficits exceeding $400 million.

Every North and Mid North Coast council has also recorded negative operating performances, with Bellingen, Kyogle and Kempsey the worst performers.

An independent review of local government in October 2013 recommended North Coast councils remain separate but share resources under a Northern Rivers Joint Organisation banner.

The details on the organisation's proposed function remain scant.

It also found Kyogle should merge with either Lismore or Richmond Valley council.

Mr Primrose said the possibility of forced amalgamations spread further than the state's capital.

"It's not only Sydney - this is all over New South Wales," he said.

"We want to know how these councils will be structured, who is going to pay for things, when elections would be held and the role of current mayors and general managers.

"We just can't get any answers."

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal's final report is due in October.

-APN NEWSDESK



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