NSW Premier Mike Baird.
NSW Premier Mike Baird. Alan Porritt

Council elections face six month delay

CLARENCE Valley Council was never going to be a casualty in the local government mergers forced on councils in Sydney and other parts of NSW, but fallout from the move could still have an effect on its future.

When making the announcement yesterday morning, Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole  noted local government elections next September could be delayed six months while the Boundaries Commission created new council borders.

Clarence Valley mayor Richie Williamson, who was part of an internet hook-up of mayors and council officials yesterday, said it was too early make a detailed comment on the decision.

"We're still trying to make sure if the election delay relates to us or just the councils going through amalgamation," Cr Williamson said.  

He said delaying the poll could have some positives, as it would avoid a potential clash with a Federal Election that could be called around September 2016.  

Cr Williamson said he would need to take a closer look at changes to the Local Government Act that allow the State Government to appoint a financial administrator to councils it deems to need it.  

"There's already provisions for the State Government to take control of a council if it deems it necessary," Cr Williamson said.  

"There would still need to be justification for intervening and clear guidelines as to what constituted a poor performance."   

Cr Williamson said he was heartened by the premier's announcement his council, which failed to reach all its Fit for the Future benchmarks earlier this year, could undergo a review next year.  

"I welcome that," he said. "I am confident we can prove that we're fit for the future.  

"We have worked very hard and made significant gains on our Fit for the Future benchmarks."    

 Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades, a councillor at Coffs Harbour, said a dark day for local democracy could have been worse as there were fewer amalgamations than Mr Toole initially indicated.  

"It's also a win that the Government has agreed to follow the review process set down in the Local Government Act, instead of the wholesale sackings they floated earlier this year," Cr Rhoades said.  

He said the government had broken a promise by former premier Barry O'Farrell in 2013 that there were would be no forced council amalgamations.