Lismore City Council (LCC) will oppose state government plans to enable the local government minister to sack councils ‘without a publicly accountable process’, following a successful motion by deputy mayor Simon Clough.
At LCC’s Tuesday night meeting councillors voted to write to the local government minister and the state premier to request the immediate withdrawal or deferment of the Local Government Amendment (Early Intervention) Bill 2013. (Crs Bennett, Scheibel, Marks, Battista and Meineke voted against.)
Cr Clough said that the bill, under the ‘guise’ of addressing poor performance by councils, has the capacity to suspend entire councils for up to six months.
He is concerned that there is no definition of ‘poor performance’ and a 21 day consultation period can be waived if the minister considers the issue ‘important’.
Another major concern, he says, is that the local government minister, Ballina MP Don Page, did not consult the Local Government Association regarding the proposed legislation.
‘What we have in essence is a local government being reduced to an arm of the state government,’ he said. ‘Although we respect the current minister, who is to say who will be the next minister? Could it be an Ian Macdonald lookalike?’
Cr Clough told council that the ‘… legislation goes much further than is needed, does not provide genuine support for local government, and it pre-empts two major local government inquiries into the Local Government Act and the Planning Act.
‘Factor in the possibility of large scale amalgamation and we have a huge centralisation of power within Sydney and consequently a huge reduction in power for local ratepayers.’
Under current legislation, Cr Clough explained, ‘… there can still be transparent public inquiries into council performance’.
Cr Gianpiero Battista spoke against the motion. He said, ‘… If a council does not make decisions on spending that reflect the wishes of the community, there is no one that can review that performance. If you manage the council properly, what are you afraid of?’
Cr Vanessa Ekins supported the motion and made mention of an urgent email councillors received from Clover Moore, lord mayor of Sydney, who expressed concern that ‘… the minister refused to withdraw or defer the Bill until there was detailed consultation with local government’.
Cr Neil Marks opposed the motion claiming that ‘paranoia was starting to show… councils will not be sacked on a whim… Clover Moore is paranoid that she will lose power… Let’s park our paranoia. There is not a lot of difference; it will only bring councils back in check when needed.’
Cr Isaac Smith supported the motion and told Council that he is ‘very disappointed with the current state government … who campaigned to deregulate and give power back to councils for planning and all we have seen is more control going back to Sydney!’
‘Taking power away from local government is taking away what local people want.’