Strathfield again singled out in new report on council amalgamations

Strathfield has again been singled out in a report on the State Government's intentions towards amalgmations, with an official response to the Independent Review Panel's recent report on mergers expected "very shortly".

State Treasury figures claim NSW local councils' financial positions have deteriorated since a report to the Independent Review by TCorp last year claimed many were unsustainable.

The report goes on to claim that despite Strathfield Council's position that it is financial stable and has no debt, TCorp's findings continue to maintain  it is "weak and distressed".

The Council, which says it is one of the best managed in the Inner West and has received accolades from the State Government for its management, believes the findings are based on the fact that it is not borrowing to develop, raising fees and charges or putting in revenue raising measures like parking metres.

The Council also claims it fails to take into account the dramatic difference projects like the redevelopment of the Town Centre will have on the council's coffers.

Mayor Daniel Bott told the Scene“This erroneous data about Strathfield’s financial position reminds me of Churchill’s line: a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. The truth is a single TCorp report was based on erroneous data and mistakenly placed Strathfield in the ‘weak or distressed’ category, where we clearly don’t belong. The data has since been corrected. 

“The reality is that Strathfield has one of the strongest financial positions of any council in NSW. We are in the extreme minority of councils with a balanced budget. Our debt-service ratio is 0 per cent, which compares to the metropolitan average of 72 per cent and a NSW average of 29 per cent. 

“Furthermore Strathfield’s rates are low, parking is unmetered, our infrastructure backlog is way below average, and major assets are owned by Council. This means we are in strong position to exercise a range of options down the track should it ever become necessary.

“If those pushing an amalgamation agenda for Strathfield want to argue their case they will need to bark up a very different tree. Strathfield’s finances are sound and our options are strong.” 

The new report comes after comments by new Local Government Minister Paul Toole suggesting the government was shifting its position on mergers ahead of next March's elections.

Former premier Barry O'Farrell told the Scene in an exclusive interview he was unimpressed by the idea.  While new premier Mike Baird has so far remained against forced amalgamations, a view is emerging that incentives and various other moveswill be used to coerce relunctant local authorities to start talks with their neighbours.

Strathfield Council was recently surprised to receice NSW's first ever Performance Order over what are considered relatively minor proceedural matters.

A report in today's Sydney Morning Herald says councils are running deficits of a combined $400 million.  The paper quotes Mr Toole as saying:  "The updated information sends a very clear message that the financial position of local government is not improving."

The January report of the Independent Review suggested Strathfield should be merged with Burwood, Ashfield, Canada Bay and Marrickville to create a super council.

Asked about the chances of a stronger mergers policy being taken to the electorate in March, 2015, Mr Toole  was reported as urging all councils to "have a conversation with their communites about how they plan on building a sustainable future.

"If that means councils believe a merger is the best option for their community, the NSW government will partner with councils to help achieve this."

He said the government was "carefully considering" its response to the panel's report and would reply "very shortly".

At its September meeting, Strathfield councillors repeated their strong opposition to the idea of amalgamations.

The council has spent $50,000 on a Save our Strathfield campaign to alert residents to the threat of the area's identity being lost.

Residents can register their opposition at saveourstrathfield.org.au. 


Comments

Last December Mr O’Farrell insisted: “I don’t think it’s clear in the report to date what the benefits are for communities like Strathfield if they are amalgamated.

 

I trust that Mr Baird and Mr O'Toole will continue on the path as Mr O'Farrell and listen to their constituents and leave Strathfield alone. The council's poll was clear, the majority of residents don't want it because there are no clear benefits for Strathfield.

 

Let's put it to rest and have a formal poll Mr Baird.

 

Save Our Strathfield invites Mr O'Toole to discuss the issue at an open forum of Strathfield residents.

Last December Mr O’Farrell insisted: “I don’t think it’s clear in the report to date what the benefits are for communities like Strathfield if they are amalgamated.

 

I trust that Mr Baird and Mr O'Toole will continue on the path as Mr O'Farrell and listen to their constituents and leave Strathfield alone. The council's poll was clear, the majority of residents don't want it because there are no clear benefits for Strathfield.

 

Let's put it to rest and have a formal poll Mr Baird.

 

Save Our Strathfield invites Mr O'Toole to discuss the issue at an open forum of Strathfield residents.

SMH, September 8th by Sean Nicholls grades Strathfield's Financial Stability Outlook as "WEAK".
In the company of Bankstown, Canterbury, Botany Bay, Holroyd,Penrith and Campbelltown. Bottom of the class of the 38 councils rated.
This is at considerable variance with the Councils stated position.
I assume the council will be vigorously defending its position with the authors of this report before it becomes "fact" in the merger debate.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
If you have your own website, enter its address here and we will link to it for you. (please include http://).
eg. http://www.mysite.com.au
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.