The NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into local government, which was prompted by the NSW Government's Fit for the Future reform program for local government announced in September 2014, yesterday handed down its final report.
The Inquiry questioned whether the Fit for the Future program was the best way to achieve reform. It considered that the implementation of other recommendations from the Independent Local Government Review Panel report would have been a more constructive approach prior to embarking on any structural reforms to the local government sector.
The report also highlighted that there were a number of positive outcomes resulting from the Fit for the Future reforms, including its encouragement to councils to review their long-term financial sustainability and consider ways to improve their performance.
Key recommendations from the Inquiry's report include:
- that the Premier and NSW Government withdraw the statements that 70 per cent of councils in metropolitan Sydney and 56 per cent of regional councils are 'unfit'
- that the NSW Government provide all local councils in NSW access to the proposed Fit for the Future incentives, regardless of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal assessment of whether the councils is 'fit' or 'unfit'
- that the Minister for Local Government work cooperatively with the NSW local government sector to petition the Australian Government to reverse its decision to freeze the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Clr Keith Rhoades AFSM welcomed the report and said: "We commend the Inquiry for its comprehensive and balanced approach – this is a strong report and the sector will continue to review its findings over the next few days.
"The Inquiry's findings and recommendations highlight the clear path that can be walked collaboratively by the State Government and local councils to deliver lasting and meaningful sector reform to the people and communities of NSW."