Albury council rejects Hume merger

ALBURY has slammed the door shut on a merger with Greater Hume, saying the cost would fall on to rate­payers.

The council has strongly objected to the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s case for amalgamations in a draft submission now open for public consideration.

The submission also rejects the mandatory popular election of mayors, stating the decision should remain with each individual council.

It does, however, support the creation of “Joint Organisations” on the condition they aren’t legal entities adding further bureaucracy. 

This would see Upper Murray councils share strategic planning, resources and service delivery, in partnership with state agencies. 

Finance and Administration Committee chairman, deputy mayor Henk van de Ven, said mergers would just add another layer of costs on an already struggling budget.

“We believe the cost of any amalgamations would be unfair on our residents,” he said.

“We support greater regional co-operation as long as it doesn’t create another level of bureaucracy that people have to pay for.” 

Cr van de Ven said, while amalgamations could work in Sydney, costs would rise in regional areas where distances were further.

He said the creation of Greater Hume in 2004, which saw Albury absorb parts of former Hume, resulted in higher rates and, therefore, expectations in outlying areas.

“We’ve got experience with that and the financial burden on rural ratepayers is too high,” he said.

“We’ve spent a hell of a lot more than we’ve collected because their expectations are higher.” 

At the release of the panel’s final report its chairman, Professor Graham Sansom, said some amalgamations must be considered.

“The current arrangements simply cannot and will not maintain strong and effective local government for the majority of communities and regions across the state,” he said.

“We have respected the government’s policy of ‘no forced amalgamations’ and suggested various ways to promote voluntary mergers.”

Council also rejected mandatory presidential style mayoral elections.

“The people with the greatest resources win and then you may be stuck with the wrong person for four years,” Cr van de Ven said.

The council also made a draft submission to the Local Government Act review, supporting a new legal framework for the establishment, role and operation of councils, and green lighted postal voting, the removal of rate pegging and the allowance of council statutory entities.

View the submissions at alburycity.nsw.gov.au/publicexhibition.

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