Councils that fight mergers accused of ‘self interest’

LOCAL Government Minister Paul Toole says councils opposed to forced amalgamations are driven by "self-interest".

The comments at a parliamentary inquiry into local government followed reports last week Mr Toole had been secretly pushing for the option to allow NSW's councils to be put under administration and forced into mergers if deemed financially non-viable.

Mr Toole's office later dismissed the plan as nothing but a tall tale.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority is currently executing an audit of all 152 NSW councils under the government's Fit for the Future program.

Mr Toole would not shed further light on whether new laws would be introduced to push through forced mergers after the audit's completion, but did argue "bigger is better".

Greens MP David Shoebridge said the "self interest" barb at the public forum was tantamount to an insult.

"Rather than producing credible evidence to support the government's forced amalgamation agenda, the Local Government Minister has taken to insulting local councils," he said.

"The Minister has again refused to rule out forced amalgamations despite no credible evidence, community support or parliamentary majority to achieve it."

The government has continually said forced amalgamations were not on the cards. But an Office of Local Government document leaked last week told a different story.

It spoke of the planned introduction of "a new structural framework for local government" - a comment the government flatly denied related to mergers.

Mr Toole told the forum the Baird Government "was on the threshold of the widest reform local government had ever seen".



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