Government lacks majority to force council amalgamations
UPDATE 5.50PM: LGNSW President Cr Keith Rhoades has further criticised the government's Fit for the Future criteria after the City of Sydney was deemed unviable.
"IPART says the reason the majority of councils were found unfit is because they opposed the government's proposed merger option and submitted a stand-alone proposal," he said.
"This is what we expected."
"Only 57 of the State's 152 councils were found fit: seven metropolitan councils, 32 non-metropolitan councils, nine rural councils (assessed against different criteria) and four groups of councils who proposed voluntary mergers.
"The City of Sydney was found unfit solely because it rejected the proposed 'global city' Mega Council amalgamation, while three councils not even slated to merge - Blacktown, Campbelltown, and Hawkesbury - were found unfit on financial criteria."
INITIAL REPORT 5.28PM: IPART has found 93% of Sydney councils are financially sustainable, but only a quarter were deemed "fit for the future" under the State Government's criteria.
Greens MP David Shoebridge said the discrepancy proved the looming threat of forced amalgamations was simply a rubber-stamp process to support the government's "bigger is better" ideology.
He added the government did not have a majority in the NSW Upper House to give the Local Government Minister new powers to force mergers on unwilling councils.
"IPART's report found that almost every submission they received from communities and resident groups supported their local council and opposed amalgamations," he said.
"This democratic feedback was ignored by IPART.
"The fact that the government took less than two business days to 'consider' IPART's report shows just how perfunctory the entire assessment process was.
"IPART was put in a strait-jacket that forced them to fail almost every financially sustainable council because they refused to merge.
"Councils didn't fail IPART's ridiculous test because of financial reasons, they failed to meet government's ill-defined and discretionary test of 'scale and capacity.'"
Sydney's biggest council, Blacktown with more than 300,000 residents, failed on financial sustainability but was still deemed fit under the criteria.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich accused the government of imposing an "arbitrary population minimum which most councils, including the (Sydney) City, cannot meet, forcing IPART to deliver an 'unfit' stamp".
"The government wants centralised power within politically favourable boundaries," he said.