'Rural council' plan slammed in NSW
The NSW Local Government Minister could dust off a one-size-fits-all plan for statutory “rural councils”.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole has indicated he could revive the plan to remove decision-making powers and a range of functions from small non-metropolitan councils and communities.
Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades wants the idea buried.
“The original structural model was scrapped by the Government in April and replaced by a new, more flexible approach, which allowed rural councils to maintain their independence, powers and functions as long as they submitted an acceptable long-term improvement plan,” Cr Rhoades said.
“However the IPART report last month appeared to restore the initial ‘sub-council’ model, senior Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson this week issued a media release asking why the structural rural council model had been scrapped.
“The Minister himself has written a letter that says; “The Government remains committed to not imposing a single legislated model on rural councils’.
“Councils are wondering what to make of all of this, and whether the door is open for two or more legislated, structural models that will rob their communities of real local democracy.
“LGNSW has been contacted by a wide range of angry councils who are concerned the Minister might be going back on his previous commitments.
“The goal posts have been moved so many times throughout this process that it’s no wonder some in the sector are ready to believe the worst.”
Cr Rhoades confirmed LGNSW had successfully lobbied on behalf of rural councils to have the original discredited model replaced with a more flexible alternative.
In April 2015 the Office of Local Government stated:
“ … the sector has shown the needs of rural communities are so diverse that a single legislated model, creating a new type of council, may not be the best solution. The model is no longer being proposed.
“Instead, councils have the option of preparing a Rural Council Proposal (Template 3) to show how they will improve performance within their current structure. This allows them to choose from solutions, developed through consultation, that particularly suit small rural communities.
“There will be no change to the way that councils are named, nor mandated changes to operations
With trust between the sector and the Minister at an all-time low, the Minister's refusal to confirm this was still the case sent alarm bells ringing, Cr Rhoades said.
“If the Minister is serious about working collaboratively with the sector he needs to be clear and direct in ruling out legislated, structural models for rural councils,” he said.