1. What has happened so far?
The NSW Government announced the creation of 19 new councils on 12 May 2016, and the creation of the new Bayside Council on 9 September 2016. The decision to create the Bayside Council was made following the conclusion of legal action by Botany Bay Council in the Court of Appeal. Stronger, more efficient councils are working harder for residents, and delivering services and infrastructure like roads, parks, playgrounds and sporting facilities.
Other new council benefits include:
- Up to $15 million to invest in community projects like junior sporting facilities, playgrounds and library or pool upgrades.
- Up to $10 million to streamline administrative processes and cut red tape. Unspent funds may be directed to community projects.
- Ratepayers in new council areas will have rate protections meaning they will pay no more for their rates than they would have under their old council for four years.
On 14 February 2017, the Government announced that it would continue its in-principle support for the creation a further five new councils in Sydney, subject to the decision of the courts.
No further mergers outside Sydney will occur.
2. What is going to happen to already merged councils?
All new councils will remain in place and will continue to deliver services and benefits to their communities. Communities will elect new councillors to represent them when they go to the polls for council elections this year. The 20 new councils already created will have their elections on 9 September 2017.
3. Why is the government continuing its support for new councils in Sydney?
There is a compelling case for proceeding with the remaining five mergers in the Sydney metropolitan area.
Financial savings that would arise from city mergers are six times greater than those involving inland regional councils. The total projected savings from proceeding with the five pending mergers in metropolitan Sydney are $410 million over 20 years.
These savings will be reinvested into the community and used for essential services as these communities grow.
Over the next 20 years, Sydney is expected to grow by more than 1.74 million new residents. Managing this kind of growth in Sydney will rely on the capacity of local councils to consider Development Applications (DAs) properly and efficiently, and fund essential local infrastructure. Larger councils have greater capacity for assessing DAs properly and efficiently, and have greater financial capacity to deliver the new services communities need.
4. What are the benefits of creating new councils?
There are many benefits of creating new councils for ratepayers and the broader community, including:
- savings through the reduction of duplication, and implementation of better governance and administrative practices
- enhanced service delivery and infrastructure
- fairer representation through more evenly distributed councillor/population ratios
- up to $15 million in NSW Government funding to invest in community projects like junior sporting facilities, playgrounds and library or pool upgrades
- up to $10 million in NSW Government funding to streamline administrative processes and cut red tape. Unspent funds may be redirected to community projects
- protection against rate increases that means ratepayers pay no more for their rates than they would have under their old council for the next four years.
5. When will elections be held?
Elections for all new councils created in 2016 are scheduled for September 9, 2017. Any further new councils created in Sydney will also have elections as soon as possible, with the aim of holding them in 2017.
6. Why is the government not continuing its support for new councils in regional areas?
Regional councils have already undergone much more consolidation than the city has – prior to the new councils created in 2016, regional council numbers had already decreased from 133 to 111 the past 15 years.
By comparison, in Sydney, most council boundaries have not changed since the 1940s, and some have remained unchanged in over 100 years.
Following recent discussions with community members, the government is of the view that prolonging the uncertainty that court action by councils has caused would adversely impact regional communities and result in further costs to ratepayers.
7. When will the five new Sydney councils commence?
All five pending metropolitan mergers are awaiting the outcomes of court proceedings. Subject to the decision of the courts, and final consideration by the Minister for Local Government, it is the government’s intention to establish these new councils as soon as possible.
8. How many councils will there be?
There were 152 councils in NSW at the start of 2016 (41 Sydney and 111 regional). Twenty new councils were created in 2016, taking the total number of councils to 128 (33 Sydney and 95 regional). Subject to the decision of the courts, there will be 119 councils in NSW (24 Sydney and 95 regional) once all the mergers have occurred.
9. How long will it be before new councils are up and running?
Twenty new councils have commenced. The government has indicated in-principle support to create a further five new councils in Sydney, however the decisions on creating further new councils will be subject to decisions of the courts.
10. Who will run the new councils between now and the elections?
An independent Administrator appointed by the Minister for Local government, with support from an Interim General Manager, will lead the council until elections are held.
11. What is the role of an Administrator?
Administrators have the same roles as the former Mayors and Councillors. They will also have a vital role to play in creating a successful new streamlined council.
12. How do I pay my rates? Will my council’s bank account details change?
You will continue to pay your rates the same way you did under your previous council. Future rate notices will inform local residents of any potential changes.
13. Will my rates increase?
The NSW Government’s rate protection commitment means residents of the new council will pay no more for their rates than they would have under their old council for the next four years.
14. What will happen to council services, such as rubbish collection or meals on wheels?
It will be business as usual for residents. The delivery of key services, such as rubbish collection or meals on wheels, will continue in the same way.
15. What will happen to council facilities, such as the library or swimming pool?
It will be business as usual for residents. Council facilities will continue to operate just as they have in the past; for example, the library and pool will maintain their regular opening hours and community halls can still be booked as usual.
16. What happens to council staff?
All council staff, other than senior employees, will retain their jobs and continue to carry out their day-to-day roles. Their jobs will be protected for a period of three years. In towns with fewer than 5,000 people, existing staff numbers will be maintained.
17. What happens to existing councils and councillors?
Administrators and interim General Managers have been appointed to each new council to oversee council until new elections are held. Former mayors and councillors may be given the opportunity to help shape the future of the new council by serving on councillor committees.
18. What happens to council names?
New council names have been based on input from the local community via written submissions or submissions at the public inquiries. Councils may change their names, after consulting with their communities.
19. What is the Stronger Communities Fund and why has the government created it?
The Stronger Communities Fund has been established by the NSW Government to enable new councils to kick-start the delivery of priority infrastructure and services projects.
- New councils formed as a result of the merger of two councils, or parts of two councils, receive $10 million.
- New councils formed as a result of the merger of three councils, or parts of three councils, will receive $15 million.
- Councils may increase funds available through the Stronger Communities Fund by investing any surplus funds from the New Council Implementation Fund.
The New Council Implementation Fund of up to $10 million is provided to new councils to cover merger costs.