Extraordinary Meeting of Council
22 February 2016
The meeting commences at 6.30pm. If members of the public are
not interested in any business recommended to be considered in
Closed Session or there is no such business, Council will ordinarily
commence consideration of all other business at 7pm.
Notice of Meeting
Notice is given of the Extraordinary Meeting of Council, to be held in the Council Chambers, 48 Longueville Road Lane Cove on Monday 22 February 2016 commencing at 7:00pm. The business to be transacted at the meeting is included in this business paper.
The Council meeting is chaired by the Mayor, Councillor Deborah Hutchens. Councillors are entitled to one vote on a matter. If votes are equal, the Chairperson has a second or casting vote. When a majority of Councillors vote in favour of a Motion it becomes a decision of the Council. Minutes of Council and Committee meetings are published on Council’s website www.lanecove.nsw.gov.au by 5pm on the Thursday following the meeting.
The Meeting is conducted in accordance with Council's Code of Meeting Practice. The order of business is listed in the Agenda on the next page. That order will be followed unless Council resolves to modify the order at the meeting. This may occur for example where the members of the public in attendance are interested in specific items on the agenda.
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OPENING OF MEETING WITH PRAYER
ACKNOWLEDGMENT TO COUNTRY
NOTICE OF WEBCASTING OF MEETING
Members of the public may address the Council Meeting on any issue for 3 minutes.
1. Response to Fit for the Future Merger Proposal
Record No: SU5558 - 9746/16
Division: Lane Cove Council
Author(s): Councillor Deborah Hutchens
Council at its meeting of 15 February 2016 resolved to refer consideration of its formal response to the Fit for the Future merger proposal to tonight’s Extraordinary Meeting. The purpose of this Mayoral Minute is to consider Council’s formal response to the NSW Government and our submission to the Delegate. In view of the community’s overwhelming opposition to the merger proposal and Council’s ongoing sustainability and strong financial position, I will be recommending that Council once again reaffirm its opposition to any forced merger of councils and to call on the NSW Government to abandon the merger proposal involving Lane Cove. I will also seek support for retaining our autonomy through participation in a Joint Regional Authority with Ryde and Hunters Hill Councils.
As Mayor of the Lane Cove Council, I am proud to say Lane Cove is an agile, responsive Council with a strong history of providing quality services that meet the unique needs of our residents.
We enjoy 94% customer satisfaction levels and a strong sense of community following significant investment in social capital. We will see a 29% increase in residents over the next 10 years, we are already addressing our infrastructure backlog and already meet the existing financial benchmarks for Fit for the Future (except that Council has no debt).
Our residents have a lot at stake in considering the options for their future. We have fostered an informed conversation with the community about the Fit for the Future reforms since June 2013. Subsequent public meetings and feedback have identified community concerns including:
· Potential loss of democracy.
· Reduce sense of community and our ongoing engagement.
· As well as an impact on the quality and diversity of facilities and services.
Our review of the proposal has also identified stark contrasts in the socio-economic profiles of Ryde, Lane Cove and Hunters Hill to the extent that a community of interest does not exist.
In response to the community’s concerns, Council has maintained a firm position of opposing any forced amalgamation of Councils and retaining our autonomy.
Our strong financial sustainability, infrastructure and service management and efficiency results demonstrate our ability to meet the current Fit for the Future criteria. For example, we have achieved:
· Budget surpluses for more than 10 years (and are projected to continue with surpluses in our Long Term Financial Plan for the next 10 years)
· An average Building and Infrastructure Asset Renewal Ratio of 181.3% (three years average) three times the industry standard paving the way for
· An infrastructure backlog ratio of only 1.79% (against a 2% benchmark) the only Council on the North Shore to meet this ratio.
According to Council’s auditors for the past 20 years, Price Waterhouse Coopers, all Council’s Key financial performance indicators are better than accepted industry standards. By comparison, analysis by consultants Morrison Low, show the merged entity will not ever meet all Fit for the Future benchmarks by 2020.
Therefore Lane Cove is in a stronger position financially than the merged entity.
The anticipated growth in the rating base of 1.25% per annum due to new development and associated developer contributions will further strengthen this position
Our strong financial situation is outlined in some detail in our draft submission which is included at AT-1. The submission which will be finalized following determination of Council’s position at the meeting, will also address our analysis of the merger proposal documents and what we know of the KPMG report. They clearly overstate perceived the financial benefits. Conversely they significantly understate the high cost of the merger in transitioning systems, procedures and services of three Councils into one, not to mention redundancies of highly skilled staff and merging of the salary systems as well as harmonising fees and charges.
I am proud to say that Lane Cove has demonstrated its capacity to deliver on infrastructure. Our Major Projects Strategy self-funds new infrastructure projects and in the past 2 years we have been involved in initiating over $200million in major projects including a $55 million bus/rail interchange for St Leonards (normally funded by the NSW Government), new parking in Little Lane, recreation and community facilities, providing ongoing commercial returns on our assets.
Lane Cove has had the financial capacity to spend $614 per head of population on capital works (three year average) and in 2014/15 Council’s capital expenditure per head was $871, while Ryde’s was $223 per head and Hunter’s Hill $206 per head. The State’s biggest council, Blacktown spent $505 per head during the same period. Lane Cove’s capital expenditure program far exceeds industry norms for Metropolitan Sydney Council’s and demonstrates an impeccable infrastructure delivery commitment. A merger would place this commitment to infrastructure in jeopardy as capital expenditure would be spread over the merged area, reducing the average capital expenditure per head of Lane Cove residents.
It won’t just be infrastructure at risk, services will also be at risk. Lane Cove has more revenue per capita ($1608) compared to Ryde ($1210) and Hunter’s Hill ($1132) which gives it the capacity to deliver a greater range and quality of services. This equates to having 33% more revenue for services per capita than Ryde and 42% more than Hunter’s Hill. A merger would result in a reduction of services directly for Lane Cove residents, as funds are allocated across the merged area to improve the existing levels in Ryde and Hunters Hill services.
With studies undertaken by Professor Dollery on the outcome of mergers in Queensland showing many now operating under diseconomies of scale, we have demonstrated ability to balance scale by initiating high-value, innovative state infrastructure projects while still remaining agile enough to respond to the high levels of service expected by our community. Additionally we have continued to build capacity to provide a robust revenue base and attract and retain skilled staff, foster a culture of innovation, creativity and flexibility in the face of change.
We have demonstrated our capacity to lead the way when it comes to implementing new legislation and overcoming local challenges. For example, we were one of the first councils to produce a Local Environmental Plan (LEP) utilising the NSW Government’s standard template and won the LGSA’s R.H. Dougherty excellence in communication award 2008 for our LEP community consultation process which attracted over 1,400 submissions. This process predated the NSW Government’s proposed planning reforms and our processes were included in the proposed reforms.
We have a long history of resource sharing including insurance pooling, Shorelink (library service), internal audit, SES, family day care, NSROC and joint procurement.
We were also one of the first Councils in NSW to implement an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel in 2011 with full decision-making powers to de-politicise planning application matters, and the first Council in NSW to produce a cultural plan under the NSW Government’s new program in 2003.
With this strong base of strategic capacity we are keen to continue adopting innovative initiatives by becoming a founding member of a metropolitan Joint Regional Authority.
82% of our community are open to exploring a Joint Regional Authority (JRA) with Ryde and Hunters Hill Councils, which focus on regional strategic planning and advocacy, intergovernmental collaboration and shared services delivery.Importantly, the JRA will allow the 3 Councils to maintain their unique local identity, autonomy and uphold local democracy.
Consistent with our extensive community engagement on this issue, Council concluded a poll in conjunction with the most recent Rates Installment Notice. From the 14,343 residential properties in the Lane Cove LGA, 1800 responses were received a 12.5% response rate which is a high rate of return for such a survey. 73% of respondents were against the merger which is consisitent with every engagement event Council has held or random sampling undertaken. The question put was simply “Do you Support the merger of Lane Cove with the City of Ryde and Hunters Hill Councils? Yes or No”.
It is disappointing that the NSW Government has throughout the process continually changed the rules in assessing proposals with the Government now assessing benefits over a 20 year period, which is different to the 10 year period that all councils were required to undertake in their Long Term Financial Plan (LTFF) for the FFTF submissions to IPART.
Disturbingly, the Government has failed to release in full the KPMG reports, assumptions and associated documents which should have been released without question. It is clearly in the public interest for these documents to be released in full so that the community and councils could properly assess and respond to the merger proposals. I will therefore be recommending council support actions for the release of the documentation.
In the event of the unnecessary merger being forced upon us, the Delegate has invited Council to indicate in its submission the level of political representation and the number of wards appropriate for the proposed merged entity.
Councillors, you will be aware that the Lane Cove community highly values their accessibility to Councillors and the fabric of local democracy. Therefore, in the event of any forced amalgamations with Ryde and Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove Council should seek assurances that the highest level of representation possible under a merged entity is maintained. It is unacceptable the merger proposal provides for only 12 elected representatives, when the maximum number of Councillors can be 15. I would recommend that we seek the maximum allowable 15 elected representatives.
In terms of Wards, the following options are suggested for consideration:
(i) No Wards and 15 Councillors.
(ii) 3 Wards of 5 Councillors – providing Wards with populations of approx 54,666 residents and 35,000 electors which could include one Ward consisting of the existing Lane Cove and Hunters Hill LGA’s or the alternate at AT-2 linking Lane Cove with North Ryde/Macquarie Park.
(iii) 5 Wards of 3 Councillors based on the Plan at AT-3 which generally provides for Wards of 32,800 residents and 21,000 electors.
Additionally, I propose that the residents of Lane Cove North residing in the area identified in the Plan at AT-4 who are currently part of the Willoughby LGA be transferred to the Lane Cove LGA or any new entity comprising the existing Lane Cove LGA.
I consider that the approx 2000 electors of this precinct have a greater affinity and access to Lane Cove facilities such as the Village, Library and Aquatic Centre and therefore a significant community of interest with Lane Cove LGA.
In concluding, I note that each of the following arguments presented by the NSW Government DO NOT APPLY to Lane Cove Council as is demonstrated in our submission.
· The industry loses $1 million per day (2014/2015 audited figures show NSW Councils in 14/15 generated surpluses of $500,000 a day) – Lane Cove has had surpluses for more than 10 years and is projected to do so for at least the next 10.
· Lack of ‘Scale and Capacity’ – our achievements in delivery of key infrastructure and high value services are highlighted in the submission.
· Inability to partner effectively with other levels of Government – We have demonstrated many major project partnerships with Government in human services, strategic planning and infrastructure.
· Inability to attract skilled staff – We have highly skilled and innovative staff
· Enhanced communities of interest – there is no communities of interest between the proposed merger councils.
· $2 billion in cost savings over 20 years across the industry – cost savings estimates presented by the Government are fundamentally flawed and the accuracy of projections over a 20 year period is low, making the premise irrelevant.
I consider the disruption and the opportunity cost of amalgamations to our community, far outweigh any potential benefits which have been significantly overstated in the merger proposal and KPMG report. Residents will suffer a dramatic reduction in local representation, and the quality and quantity of council services are at risk. The costs (both direct and indirect) in a merger transition will be felt for many years with significant sums wasted on aligning systems, services, payroll parities and not to mention the impact on our staff, many whose skills, experience and commitment to our communities will be lost to the industry through this unnecessary process.
I believe that under a large Council the very essence of Local Government, namely our close connection with and responsiveness to our community is lost.
On behalf of the Lane Cove community and on the basis of the issues raised and facts provided in our submission, I call on the NSW Government to abandon the merger proposal and allow Lane Cove to stand alone as a strong, effective and sustainable service orientated council.
1. Once again reaffirms its opposition to forced amalgamations of councils;
2. Call on the NSW Government to abandon the merger proposal for Lane Cove, Ryde and Hunters Hill Councils as the proposal is not in the communities interest;
3. Once again reaffirm its commitment to and participation in a Joint Regional Authority with Ryde and Hunters Hill Councils to retain autonomy of the individual Councils;
4. Support an appeal application to the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal to have the decision by the NSW Premier & Cabinet not to release information sought by Councillor Bennison pursuant to the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 on the grounds that Council is of the opinion that there are clear and compelling grounds in doing so for the reason that there is considerable public interest not only for the local government area of Lane Cove but also for the other affected local government areas in having access to vital information pertaining to the alleged grounds and reasons, for the current set of merger proposals proposed by the State Government; and authorise the General manager to:
i. Appoint legal representation as and when required for or in connection with the above mentioned appeal application; and
ii. Subject to Council proceeding with the appeal, pay the applicable application fee
5. To the extent that expenditure is or will be incurred in giving effect to this resolution which would otherwise be outside Council’s adopted budget;
i. Council is of the opinion that the expenditure is both required and warranted for the reason stated in this resolution; and
ii. The expenditure must not exceed the stipulated limits and amounts in the mandatory OLG Guideline on Council Decision Making During Merger Proposals (December 2015) and must otherwise be in accordance with the provisions of those Guidelines.
6. Endorse our draft Fit for the Future merger proposal submission at AT-1 and authorise the Mayor and General Manager to finalise the submission and forward it to the Delegate Dr Robert Lang;
7. Consider the level of political representation in the event of the unnecessary merger proposal being forced upon Lane Cove and the number of wards appropriate for the proposed merged entity.
Councillor Deborah Hutchens
Draft response for Fit For the Future Merger Proposal
Plan of 3 Wards of 5 Councillors
Plan of 5 Wards of 3 Councillors
Proposed plan showing Lane Cove North area