No forced council amalgamations
BALLINA MP and Local Government Minister Don Page has rejected union claims the State Government was planning a new round of council amalgamations.
The accusation came from United Services Union general secretary Graeme Kelly who was today quoted outside NSW Parliament House saying Mr Page had indicated the amalgamations in "code" when he told a Sydney radio station this morning Sydney had too many councils.
The amalgamation issue has been building steam on the Northern Rivers for about a week, particularly around the Byron Shire Council after the neighbouring Tweed Shire Council suggested its border should be moved to take in Ocean Shores and Bilinudgel and after a mayoral candidate nominated for Byron on a platform of amalgamating the council out of existence.
This afternoon, Mr Page released a statement saying the State Government maintained its policy of no forced amalgamations.
"Reform of the local government sector, including boundary changes, are currently being looked at by an independent expert panel,'' Mr Page said.
"The panel was requested by the local government sector, which has openly acknowledged the need for local government reform.
"It is important to remember that Labor forced 27 councils to amalgamate. We put in place the Independent Local Government Review Panel to look at all areas of local Government - governance, structures and financial sustainability
"We undertook these reforms because we want to make local government stronger given that almost half our councils in NSW are struggling financially.''
The Tweed proposal to absorb Byron's north was made as part of a submission that was put to the panel on Monday. The panel is putting together a report to go to Mr Page in July next year.
"The Liberals & Nationals Government is about returning grass-roots democracy to NSW. We need a strong local government sector as we seek to decentralise a lot of decision making," Mr Page said.
"We have comprehensive and consultative reforms occurring in this State. We consult with the whole community which includes the local government sector, the LGSA, the LGMA.
"The best protection for local government employees is a strong local government sector."