THE Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has assessed Eurobodalla Shire Council as being a stand-alone council and “fit for the future” in findings released today.
According to the IPART report commissioned by the NSW Government to evaluate NSW councils, 60 per cent of councils across the state are not fit for the future.
These councils, which include Queanbeyan and Palerang in South East NSW, have 30 days to respond to the findings and investigate mergers.
State Member Andrew Constance however is still urging more cooperation between councils.
Mr Constance said Eurobodalla Shire and Bega Valley Shire Council should hold discussions with neighbouring councils and the NSW Government so they can deliver better value for money for ratepayers.
IPART assessed 52 proposals as being fit for the future, representing just 37 per cent of the 139 proposals received.
Proposals were assessed against scale and capacity and financial management criteria using seven benchmarks to show how councils are working towards long term financial sustainability.
Eurobodalla mayor Lindsay Brown welcomed IPART’s assessment of Eurobodalla Shire Council.
“The Fit for the Future proposal was an opportunity for council to consider its operations and services and we embraced that,” he said.
‘I am very pleased but not surprised that IPART has evaluated Eurobodalla as financially sustainable now and into the future.
“We have worked hard in recent years to improve our operations and our finances and we were in a robust position to demonstrate the organisation’s ability to meet the IPART benchmarks,” Clr Brown said.
Eurobodalla general manager Dr Catherine Dale said today’s announcement signalled the beginning of a challenging and rewarding time for Eurobodalla Shire Council.
“Our proposal to IPART was able to articulate how council will maintain and improve performance against efficiency benchmarks that include financial sustainability and the ability to effectively manage infrastructure and services,” she said.
“There is much to do, including continuing to work with our neighbouring councils to establish the South East Joint Organisation to deliver projects that will contribute further to a financially sustainable future for Eurobodalla.
“We are also working with Bega Valley Shire Council to develop further opportunities to strengthen the current relationship and put in place a framework to deliver greater efficiencies for both councils.”
Council’s Fit for the Future Improvement Proposal can be read at www.esc.nsw.gov.au
Constance urges cooperation
Member for Bega Andrew Constance said the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Report health check of NSW councils found that 56 per cent in regional NSW are “not fit” for the future.
The IPART report found reducing waste and red tape through local government mergers could free up funds for NSW ratepayers, to stabilise council rates and fund better services and new infrastructure for communities.
The NSW Government today also announced a new Stronger Communities Fund, providing each new council in regional NSW up to $10 million to invest in community infrastructure projects such as sporting fields, libraries, and parks and funding of up to $5 million for each new council to ensure ratepayers do not pay for the up-front costs of merging. This funding will be available to those mergers agreed to by councils and the NSW Government.
“Four years of independent research, analysis and consultation with councils and the community has shown that the current system of local government is not working as well as it should be,” Mr Constance said.
“This IPART report shows the situation is now critical and that action is needed to ensure ratepayers get value for money and the services and infrastructure they deserve.”
The NSW Government will now give councils a 30-day consultation opportunity to inform the Government’s position on local government reform and respond to these IPART findings.
Mr Constance said the NSW Government has made a three-point guarantee to give regional communities extra confidence that reforms will deliver tangible benefits and stronger councils:
- 1) Mergers will reduce waste and red tape
- 2) All the savings will go to:
- a. Better services,
- b. More infrastructure, or
- c. Lower rates
- 3) Local representation will be maintained.
“I urge Eurobodalla Shire and Bega Valley Shire Council to consider these IPART findings and hold discussions with neighbouring councils and the NSW Government so they can deliver better value for money for ratepayers across the region now and into the future,” Mr Constance said.
“The savings and Stronger Communities Fund will enable each council to make a decision on whether to invest their extra funds into better services, more infrastructure or lower rates for their community.
“We know that there is no one size fits all in the regions. That’s why we have provided $5.3 million for regional Joint Organisations and $4 million for an Innovation Fund to help regional and rural councils that are struggling financially to make the improvements needed.”