NSW councils rail against forced mergers

NORTH Coast councils may have escaped forced amalgamation, but dozens of local governments have had mergers thrust upon them.

The Save Our Councils Coalition has urged the government to release the KPMG report it relied upon to decide more than a quarter of the state's 152 councils should no longer stand alone.

Spokeswoman Nella Gaughan said the community needed proof there were facts behind Mr Baird's claim mergers would save the state $2 billion over 20 years.

"If the Premier wants a full and fair community debate about his forced amalgamation plan, it is vital that he now release the KPMG report so everyone can see the rationale for taking a wrecking ball to local government in NSW," she said.

"We want to know what these 'benefits' are and we question the Premier's claims that there are benefits to councils anywhere near $2 billion."

Under the plan, regional councils will decrease from 109 to 87, while Sydney councils will decrease from 43 to 25.

Local Government NSW president and Coffs Harbour councillor Keith Rhoades said the announcement of forced amalgamations was a dark day in the state's history.

However, he celebrated the fact the number of mergers was significantly reduced compared to the government's original plan.

"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," he said.

"LGNSW will continue to hold the government to account throughout this process, which must be followed to the letter if (Local Government Minister Paul Toole) wishes to avoid legal challenges.

"But it's important to note that even though the review process offers an opportunity for community input, the Minister is in no way bound by its findings or recommendations, or that of the Boundaries Commission.

"As long as it has ticked all the procedural boxes as set out in the (Local Government Act), the government can essentially proceed to forced amalgamations at will."

-APN NEWSDESK



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