Amalgamation of Councils

Danger Zone

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

: IPART’s map of part of the state, showing ‘fit’ councils in green and ‘unfit’ councils in orange. The blue would be considered ‘fit’ with a merger process. More on IPART’s decision plus an editorial on page 4. Cont

By Melissa Blewitt

 

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

The report, released by the State Government last Tuesday, found Lachlan Shire “unfit” due to a forecast declining population over the next 20 years.

Lachlan Shire Council’s Fit for the Future proposal was one of 87 out of 139 proposals assessed to be unfit, with only three of 12 councils in the central west found fit to stand alone.

IPART has suggested a merger with Parkes would be the most beneficial course of action, but Lachlan Shire Council’s preference is to remain a stand alone Council within a Joint Organisation (JO).

Parkes failed to satisfy one crucial criterion – efficiency – but was still deemed “fit” by the IPART report.

Lachlan failed to meet the scale and capacity criteria (population under 10,000), but satisfied the financial criteria overall including sustainability, infrastructure and service management.

Lachlan’s population stands at 6,700 and is predicted by the NSW Department of Planning to fall to 5,500 by 2031. If merged with Parkes, the new entity would have a projected population of 21,000 by 2031.

According to General Manager Robert Hunt, Council is committed to standing alone.

“Lachlan Shire only fails to meet one criterion and that is scale and capacity. Councils had not been told beforehand that there was a minimum population of 10,000 which had to be met and that has been very disappointing after all the work that went into the submission,” he said.

Lachlan’s TCorp Financial Sustainability Rating (FSR) was assessed as moderate and they were given a negative outlook.

“This [the FSR] was completed a few years ago and the negative outlook is based on projections – we have since made many changes and we will be sustainable after the rate increase next year and we will have a positive outlook based on this.”

Mr Hunt added that after a discussion with Parkes General Manager, Kent Boyd, both Councils preferred to stand alone however, further meetings with neighbouring councils will be held.

In the meantime an independent telephone survey of residents will also be undertaken by Micromex Pty Ltd to see if ratepayers want to take the $15m incentive on offer to the merged entity by the State Government or remain an independent Council.

Council has until 18 November to respond to the findings.

 

 

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