Coast forum to share council merger lessons

More than 70 mayors, councillors and general managers of merged councils will come together on the Central Coast this week to discuss progress to date and the next steps needed in the ongoing commitment to meet the needs of their communities.

The Local Government NSW (LGNSW) forum, which focuses on the challenges and successes experienced by councils forcibly merged in December 2015, will be co-hosted by Central Coast Council.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said attending councils now had more than three years of experience as amalgamated entities to share.

“The amalgamation process is a complex one and includes challenges that range from merging multiple IT systems to harmonising rate structures and service levels across old council boundaries,” she said.

“This work must be completed over and above the ongoing core business of any council: the provision and maintenance of services and community infrastructure to their communities.

“It is to the immense credit of mayors, councillors and general managers attending this forum that they have continued to deliver this core business while resolving the challenges before them.”

Cr Scott said the forum was designed to ensure amalgamated councils could share their experience and the solutions they’d developed with their peers.

“If one council’s experience can make it easier for another to achieve their objectives even more smoothly and efficiently, that’s really good news,” she said.

“We welcome the current NSW Government’s commitment to no new forced council amalgamations, but they must allow councils and communities who continue to wish to undertake a demerger process to do so.”

Central Coast Mayor Jane Smith said the common purpose of all the attendees was to represent and serve their communities.

“Central Coast Council is now the third-largest council in NSW, by population, and sixth in Australia,” Cr Smith said.

“I’m looking forward to sharing our experience as a major new council and learning from other councils as to how they have managed to bring their systems and procedures together.

“Everyone attending is committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for their communities.

“We want to deliver essential services and infrastructure, to provide sound financial management and to deliver the best value for the ratepayer’s dollar.”

Topics to be covered at the forum include land use planning, workforce and systems, rates harmonisation, finance, local representation and community engagement.

Key guest speakers include former General Manager of Tamworth Regional Council Glenn Inglis, who will share his experience of their amalgamated council more than a decade on, and UTS’s Adjunct Professor of Policy and Governance Graham Sansom.

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