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SSC Newspaper : February 2013
By Joanne Tran AmAlgAmAtion is lArgely being sold as a way for councils to save costs by achieving “e conomies of scale” . But after experiencing amalgamation firsthand, some residents in our Queensland sister city somerset believe it has left residents disconnected and financially worse off. terry Dredge, the former mayor of Kilcoy, which was amalgamated with esk to form the somerset regional Council, believes the merger is robbing Kilcoy residents with higher rates. Dredge was appalled when he heard the new south Wales state government was citing economic benefits as an advantage of larger amalgamated councils. “economic efficiency as an excuse is a load of... ” he said before stopping to recompose himself. “Cost efficiency doesn’t come into it. “t here’s a bigger administration, but smaller work forces and less people on the ground. i ’d say it costs more. ” Dredge also laments the rate hike imposed on residents in his area. “rates have gone up 27 per cent for Kilcoy,” he said. “Valuations are done by the valuer general and because land values are higher in some areas, Kilcoy is 30 per cent higher than others places, our rates went up.” But rates aren’t the only way Kilcoy residents are being “rorted” . Dredge has seen pensioners lose out on the previous benefits his smaller council provided. “t hey upped the service charge on pensioners. i know pensioners who own two properties. Previously we’d only charge them one water rate, but in a larger administration they don’t notice this,” he said. “it happened to me as well and i went through the complaints system and got it fixed but not everyone realises you could do that. “And the complaints system is so long. some people complained but gave up after council dismissed them a few times and gave them only a complaints number. ” this is just one example, Dredge believes, of the way the larger council overlooks the ordinary citizen. “Before i would just walk past things and see them, whereas now they drive past and don’t notice,” he said. “Previously, we could prompt staff and have something done about problems in the area. now they just can’t see what needs addressing.” But he warns strathfield their complaints could go unheard. “ We yelled and screamed, but the Beattie and Bligh governments were adamant. they were deadset on amalgamation,” he said. in september last year, Kilcoy’s bid to de-amalgamate from somerset regional Council was turned down by the Queensland government. out of 19 similar bids, only four are being referred. in Queensland, if a bid to de-amalgamate is successful, the council seeking de-amalgamation bears any cost of the process. it must also have the support of at least 20 per cent of the voting population in the de-amalgamating council in a signed petition. Costs include that of a poll, additional staff, contractors and consultants required to assist with the de-amalgamation process. the battle for the hearts and minds of strathfield began in earnest this week as save our strathfield representatives took to the streets to raise petition signatures and awareness. tony gaughn, nine, was perhaps the youngest crusader. standing outside the council chambers holding a save our strathfield placard, he told the scene: “i don’t want my council to merge with anyone else.” marlene Doran, a veteran of two anti- amalgamation campaigns, agrees. “We’ve fought this fight before and we’ll continue to do it again,” she said. “We can’t lose our democratic voice. “We will lose what we know as strathfield. We will lose our identity as a community.” Strathfield Scene 5 news www.ourstrathfield.com.au “We yelled and screamed, but the Beattie and Bligh Government were adamant. They were deadset on amalgamation.” — Terry Dredge, the former mayor of Kilcoy Why amalgamation doesn’t Work a people’s campaign What is a people’s petition? A people’s petition is a document signed by at least 10,000 people requesting the legislative Council to change legislation. the subject must be a matter the house has the power to act on. the petition can only be presented to the legislative Council by a member of the house although any member can present a petition. members of the public can ask a member to present the petition. once the document has been presented, it will be forwarded to the relevant minister for consideration. City status rejeCted strathfield Council’s request to become a city has been denied by the local government minister Don Page. Council received a response on January 15 that said: “Although the minister has noted the community support for the strathfield local government area to be proclaimed a city, he considers it premature for him to recommend council’s application for approval at this time. ” Page proposed the matter be revised once the local government Acts taskforce, which is looking into local government issues, had reported to the government. Council will write a letter to the minister’s office asking it to reconsider. report due in april Chairman of the independent local government review Panel Professor graham sansom said the panel will release its final report on council amalgamations by mid-April. A treasury will be appointed to examine the financial positions of all sydney metropolitan councils. “the panel will be looking at the 25 year sustainability of each council and an external treasury is going to be looking at how financial viable each council is,” he said. “We have to look at all factors. one council might be in a strong position now, but might not be in 25 years.” Protesters of all ages took to the streets to gain support and collect signatures for a petition against amalgamation.
December 2012 SS