Amalgamation Update #2

As many of you will know, on October 20, the NSW State Government released IPART’s assessment of local government Fit for the Future proposals. Willoughby’s proposal was that the Council stand-alone.

While meeting financial criteria, IPART determined that Willoughby was not “fit” on a basis of its scale and capacity.  All councils were then given to November 18 to submit preferred merger options – a further stand-alone proposition not being an option – with the Premier having said publicly that the Government’s position would be known before the end of the year.

I am now regularly asked as to what is Willoughby Council’s position on amalgamations, and for my personal view. My position follows:

·         I am proud of Willoughby, of our financially strong position and our unique culture reflected in both “village living” and a thriving CBD.

·         I would continue to support a “stand-alone” option should that be possible, and would be confident of our ability to continue to deliver value to Willoughby residents. In the absence of a stand-alone option, expressing no preference for council mergers would, in my view, risk Willoughby not having a say at all and would ensure we will not participate in the infrastructure and other funding incentives available.

·         I do not believe that a mega merger of Willoughby, North Sydney, Mosman, Hunters’ Hill, Lane Cove and part of Ryde, as suggested by the ILGRP, is in Willoughby’s best interests. Indeed, our own consultative process indicated this is far from preferred by Willoughby residents. I believe there are likely significant benefits in a Willoughby / North Sydney combination and the independent study comissioned by WCC confirmed expectations of a significant cost saving over 8 years.

·         I also do not believe it is Willoughby ratepayers’ best interests to commit to a costly public or media relations campaign along the lines of “Save our Councils”, or to engage lawyers to conduct a legal challenge in the absence of an actual State Government proposal.

Accordingly, at the Willoughby Council meeting of November 9, I voted in favour of a voluntary merger (as did a majority of Councillors 9:1, with 3 absentees); and on a first preference for a merger with North Sydney (voting was unanimous 9:0, with 4 absentees).  A voluntary merger with North Sydney now represents the Willoughby Council preferred position – a position North Sydney have rejected.

Officers’ reports and minutes are available at—Minutes/General-Council-Meetings/2015-11-09/

We await Macquarie St’s response.

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