Councils welcome overturn of attempted power grab

Attempts to make it easier for NSW Government Ministers to intervene in council operations have been rejected in State Parliament overnight, with the protection of local democracy welcomed by NSW councils.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the Government used yesterday’s one-day return of Parliament to unsuccessfully try to force through legislation that would have allowed Ministers to:

  • Dictate the type of infrastructure built in local government areas;
  • Place a cap on the maximum amount of income a council may earn;
  • Dictate when and how councils collect and spend infrastructure contributions by local developers, with no sunset provision.

“Councils and communities welcome that the autonomy of local governments, the most trusted level of government, has been upheld by the NSW Parliament,” Cr Scott said.

“Communities were rightly angry when they learnt the NSW Government, in the midst of a global pandemic, was seeking to grab power from democratically elected councils in order to mandate we stop infrastructure projects, kill local jobs and freeze councils’ income and employment opportunities.

“We welcome an acknowledgement from the NSW Government that it would send the wrong message to simultaneously introduce new powers to fast-track private profit-earning development but prevent community development designed to deliver public good.”

Successful NSW Greens amendments also overturned Ministerial discretion to:

  • intervene in council income
  • prevent expenditure on building and infrastructure projects that were or would be used as part of council decision-making functions.

“These amendments mean that infrastructure incorporating council offices and service centres with community facilities such as libraries, youth centres and art galleries can still proceed,” Cr Scott said.

“Council-led infrastructure investment means jobs now, when communities most need them, and better community facilities for the public good in the future.

“Councils are democratically elected by their communities – they must be free to determine the facilities supported by the people they represent. We welcome the NSW Parliament’s recognition of this.”

Cr Scott said LGNSW had worked closely with the State Government to help ensure councils were in a position to help drive a locally led recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, bushfires and drought.

“Councils stand ready to help kickstart the economic and social recovery in local communities,” she said.

“What councils don’t need is legislation with the very real potential to undermine local democracy and prevent them from delivering the services and infrastructure their communities need.

“The Planning Minister has consistently promised to work with, encourage and support councils, so we welcome Parliament’s clear direction that he should do so with respect to when and how councils collect and spend infrastructure contributions.”

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