State government braces for local government reform backlash

The State Government was said to be bracing for a strong reaction to its local government reform package, believed to have been considered by Cabinet this week and expected at any time.

Councils have been left on tenterhooks with a public announcement of how it plans to reduce councils now expected next week.

A spokesperson from the Local Government Minister's office said the Minister, Paul Toole, is still considering council's IPART submissions, and a decision will be made before Christmas.

There are rumours in the Local Government sector, with some saying the Baird government will announce plans to dismiss or suspend all councils that are resisting mergers and appoint administrators until the September 2016 council elections.

While it seems the state government is eager to resolve council amalgamations by next September, the Local Government Act requires a public inquiry by the Boundaries Commission into any amalgamation.

But there are currently no members of the Boundary Commission and experts believe that there is not a lot of time to hold multiple inquiries between now and next September.

Others think the Baird government will publish preferred maps of the new council boundaries in the next few days and put pressure on the cross-benches to support legislation in the new year to get faster mergers.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a number of former administrators have been approached to provide their resumes to the government.

Up to 20 administrators would be required for the Sydney metropolitan area.

And in the last bid to fight against mergers, some councils resisting have employed legal advice.

North Sydney Council has retained senior counsel Bret Walker in anticipation that it will need head to the Supreme Court to avoid forced amalgamation and the dismissal of their council.


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