Riding roughshod over local democracy? Assessing proposed NSW local government reforms and potential impacts on representative democracy at a sub-national level.

Stream: Panel 82 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Australian Sub-national Politics 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm

Abstract

The NSW government announced significant reforms to the structure and operation of local government in 2011. “Fit for the Future” was the government’s response to addressing the financial sustainability of local councils; improving service delivery and increasing operational efficiencies (OLG, 2015). Fit for the Future was informed by a range of government commissioned reviews: Destination 2036 (OLG, 2012); TCorp Report Financial Sustainability of the New South Wales Local Government Sector (TCorp, 2013); Independent Local Government Review Panel – Final Report (ILGRP, 2013); Local Government Act Taskforce (OLG, 2013); Independent Pricing and Review Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future - assessment of NSW Local Government (IPART, 2015); KPMG merger analysis (KPMG, 2016). However there has been strident criticism of the proposed “Fit for the Future” reforms by academics; community organisations, local residents, council staff, and elected representatives (see Drew et al, 2016; Drew, Kortt and Dollery (2015); Drew and Dollery (2014a); Drew, Kortt and Dollery, 2014; Drew and Dollery 2014). Specific criticisms include: transparency of process; methodological approaches; procedural fairness; and consultation. This paper summarises the reform process over the last four years, its criticisms, and current status. The paper examines two proposed council mergers: Oberon-Bathurst; and Bankstown-Canterbury. Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA) was used to assess councils’ technical efficiency and scale. The paper concludes with observations on the potential impact of “Fit for the Future” on representative democracy at a sub-national level.

Authors

Nicole Campbell (Presenter), University of Technology Sydney
Nicole Campbell is completing her Masters in Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney. She has over 20 years experience in State and Local government and was an elected local government representative (204-2012). Nicole has a strong interest in governance and public policy at a sub-national level.

Joseph Drew, University of Technology Sydney