Council to consider funding for future merger investigation

18 July, 2013

On 2 July, Wingecarribee Mayor Councillor Juliet Arkwright and General Manager Jason Gordon arranged a meeting with Wollondilly Mayor Councillor Col Mitchell and General Manager Les McMahon so they could discuss Wingecarribee Shire Council’s submission to the Local Government Review Panel, which amongst a number of options included the possibility of a stronger relationship with Wollondilly Council.
Wingecarribee’s submission indicated that a merger with Wollondilly was an option that could be further explored should their preferred first option of also standing alone be rejected.
Because of impending growth in Wilton and Appin, Wollondilly’s population is predicted to triple within the next thirty years. Therefore the Wollondilly submission to the Local Government Review Panel was to remain as a standalone Council as their long term financial sustainability was deemed as positive.
A report to allocate funding to investigate the feasibility of a possible merger with Wollondilly Shire Council will be tabled at next week’s Council Meeting.
The report follows a similar recommendation which was submitted and passed by Wollondilly Shire Councillors at their Council meeting held earlier this week.
Wingecarribee Shire Mayor, Councillor Juliet Arkwright said the report would ask Council to commit $50,000 towards a jointly funded merger feasibility study.

“In addition to looking at future growth modelling, the report will detail a number of options including social, economic and financial impacts on both local government areas,” Councillor Arkwright said. “It will also look at potential implications for staff from both Councils.”

The call for the report comes after the State Government released its Future Directions for NSW Local Government discussion paper earlier in the year. This document discussed the need for change within Local Government to ensure long term financial sustainability. Reforms suggested within the discussion paper included reducing the number of Local Government Areas across the state and amalgamation of existing councils.

“I commend Wollondilly Council for their decision to jointly finance a combined investigation dependent on our Council’s own resolution next week,” Councillor Arkwright said.

“Both Councils share many geographic, economic and social similarities,” she said. “I think it only prudent that together we begin to look at options of our own accord.”

The report, which proposes that the two Councils jointly fund a merger feasibility study at a cost of $50,000 each, will be tabled at next week’s Ordinary Council Meeting of Wednesday 24 July.

“Should our councillors agree to partake in the study, and once results are returned from the report, only then can we can begin to make informed decisions about the future of both Councils,” Councillor Arkwright said.

“Any proposals will only be further investigated should there be significant advantages for our Shire.”

“Council also recognises that any final decisions in regards to future reforms and amalgamations lie with the State Government; however, we’re also aware that any voluntary mergers may be given preferential State financial assistance as opposed to forced mergers.

“It is important to stress that the proposed report is a preliminary document only,” Councillor Arkwright added.

“It will look at a number of options and at this point no further firm commitments will be entered into until the report is completed and our residents have had a chance to comment.”