Fit for the Future Update
The NSW Government announced its plans to reduce the number of councils in NSW from 152 to 112 on the 18 December 2016. Council’s Mayor Peter Laird, Acting General Manager Ken Murphy and Directors participated in a webinar presented by the Premier Mike Baird and the Local Government Minister Paul Toole at which the announcement was made.
Council’s Mayor, Cr Peter Laird, stated, “I am very pleased that common sense has prevailed and that there is no proposal for amalgamation of the Carrathool Shire, with Council being deemed “Fit for the Future” as a rural council.” Whilst many of the details of what it will mean to be a “rural council” are yet to be clarified I believe that standing as a separate entity rather than being amalgamated provides a much better outcome for our communities.”
Acting General Manager Ken Murphy, said “the webinar provided an update on the Local Government Reform process and in particular identified those Councils which are proposed for merger. With the processes around other Council mergers including submissions, public meetings, review and referral to the Boundaries Commission for final decision by the Minister, it is doubtful that the next ordinary local government elections due this year, could be held before March 2017”, he added.
Cr Laird said “I am encouraged that the NSW Government recognizes the unique challenges facing councils and communities in rural areas, and has indicated that rural councils will be supported to improve their capability and performance. I am keen to see Council take full advantage of any benefits which may be available to improve service delivery and implement solutions to not only local but also regional challenges”, he stated.
What is Fit for the Future?
The NSW State Government is currently undertaking major reform of Local Government in NSW. The reforms could have significant impacts on Carrathool Shire and we encourage you to be informed and participate in the range of community consultations and engagements that will be available over the next months so that you have a say in deciding on the future direction for our community. In 2014, the Minister for Local Government announced the 'Fit for the Future' reform package based on the recommendations of the Independent Review of Local Government.
Every council in NSW is required to submit a proposal by 30 June 2015, outlining their plans to become 'Fit for the Future'. Councils need to demonstrate how they will become and remain sustainable, provide effective and efficient services, and develop the scale and capacity to meet the needs of the community.
Process to Date
- The Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) was appointed in April 2012 by the NSW Government to formulate options for governance models, structures and boundary changes in Local Government.
- The ILGRP released its findings in October 2013. The report recommended that Carrathool Shire Council become a rural council under the Murrumbidgee Joint Organisations or merge with Griffith City Council.
- In October 2014, the NSW Government announced its FFF reform process, requiring each Local Government area in NSW to lodge a FFF proposal, setting out how it would be structured to meet the challenges going forward.
- Each council was advised to use the ILGRP recommendations in relation to their council as the starting point for preparing their submission.
- In April 2015, Council consulted with its communities through meetings held in Hillston, Goolgowi, Merriwagga, Carrathool and Rankins Springs, an online survey and mail out of information reply paid survey forms, and posting of information on Council’s website and facebook page. Local Government Reform Community Briefing Paper (PDF) (1.89 MB)
- On 28 April 2015, the Minister for Local Government announced that the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) will undertake the role of the Expert Panel in assessing councils’ FFF proposals.
- On 5 June 2015, IPART issued the final methodology for its assessment of councils’ FFF submissions.
- After considering its position, and consulting with community and neighbouring councils, council prepared its submission for lodgment by 30 June 2015.
- 178 people attended the community consultation meetings
- 483 survey responses were received, with 474 people (or 98%) indicating that they wished Carrathool Shire Council to remain as a stand-alone Council. From the census conducted in 2011, the shire had 1900 adults (over 18 years of age), giving a survey response of just over 25%.
Council submission on FFF was adopted at the Council Meeting held 23 June 2015. Council’s submission advises that a possible merger with Griffith City Council was considered but ruled out with 98% of community consultation respondents requesting that Council remain a stand-alone Council. Griffith City Council also indicated that it prefers not to merge.
Since the T-Corp report Council has focussed on its asset management and depreciation levels and has returned its operating performance into surplus for the past two financial years.
Council currently meets four of the seven Fit for the Future criteria results. The three bench marks that Council does not currently achieve are: own source revenue ratio, the building and infrastructure asset renewal ratio, and the infrastructure backlog ratio. The own source revenue ratio has been affected by the level of disaster recovery funding received as a result of the 2012 floods and the ratio will be achieved in the 2015/16 financial year. The building and asset renewal ratio was also affected by the 2012 floods and the ratio is due to meet the bench mark for the 2014/15 financial year. Council is completing a revaluation and assessment of all road infrastructure and the completion of a number of projects over the next two financial years will reduce the infrastructure backlog and should return this ratio to approximately 1.7%.
Over the next two to three years, Council will meet all the Fit for the Future benchmarks, improve Council’s asset management and consequently properly integrate all of Council’s Integrated Planning & Reporting documentation. Council will also undertake a service review of key services in conjunction with the community to identify possible areas of reduced costs to further improve Council’s funds for discretionary expenditure.
A copy of Council’s submission to the Fit for the Future Expert Panel can be viewed here Carrathool Shire Fit for the Future Proposal.pdf (PDF) (2.05 MB)
What Does "Stand Alone" Mean?
“Stand alone” means remaining as an independent council. To do so, Carrathool Shire Council must provide an extensive submission addressing a number of things:
- To show that it currently has the right scale and capacity to remain stand alone;
- To show that it can meet the FFF financial and sustainability criteria;
- To identify areas of improvement and plan strategies to help to meet any of the financial benchmarks that it doesn’t currently meet;
- To quantify projected outcomes over time.
What Happens after the FFF Submission is Lodged?
IPART will assess all submissions and report to the Minister for Local Government by the end of October 2015, on which councils are considered FFF and which are not. Councils will be advised whether they have been assessed as FFF or if not the reasons why. If assessed as FFF, a council will then move forward to implement their action plan.
If councils are assessed as not being FFF it is expected that further discussions will occur with the Office of Local Government concerning possible alternatives.
How Can I Provide Feedback on Matters Relating to the Reform of Local Government in NSW and Amalgamations?
The Legislative Council’s General Purpose Standing Committee No 6 is examining the Government’s FFF reform agenda, covering a wide range of topics including deadlines, and the costs and benefits of council amalgamations. The committee is keen to hear from community members and is accepting public submissions until Sunday 5 July or by completing an online questionnaire by Sunday 19 July 2015.
IPART is also seeking community feedback and will provide the opportunity to comment on council submissions after 30 June 2015. A link to the appropriate page will be provided once available.
Contact Council on 6965 1900 for further information.