Sydney Councils can become 14 Joint Regional Authorities to Improve Performance

Council reform for Metropolitan Sydney can be achieved through forming 14 Joint Regional Authorities rather than sacking every council says the Urban Taskforce.

“Recent reports in the media that the NSW Government is considering sacking all councils in order to restructure into 14 Sydney councils will create major division between communities.” Says Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson “ There is a less confrontational way to achieve the reform of local government in metropolitan Sydney by forming 14 Joint Regional Authorities.”

“ There is no doubt that reform is needed in local government particularly to encourage councils to embrace growth and future change and to improve efficiency. If we started from scratch today we would probably have around 14 councils for Sydney rather than 41, however councils have developed close relationships with their communities and severing this connection through sacking councils will create significant tensions. We believe that there is a ‘Plan B’ approach where the state government should create around 14 Joint Regional Authorities(JRAs) made up of the current 41 individual councils. Activities that benefits from a more strategic or regional approach would be undertaken by the JRAs while local activities would be undertaken by individual councils. Amalgamations should be encouraged within this structure and this is likely over time.”

“Metropolitan councils have evolved with a range of roles from very local to larger scale regional activities. It is these larger scale activities like strategic land use planning, road networks and relationships with the State Government on health, education and public transport that are better delivered by bigger organisations with the necessary skill base. In the area of planning we would see 5 or 6 councils pooling their planners into a regional Centre of Excellence that would provide a service back to the councils.”

“The NSW Government has already instigated shared service centres as one stop shops for many separate government departments. This same approach can be applied to groups of councils that share a geographic area. It is important that clusters of councils fit within the six sub-regions defined in the Sydney Metropolitan Strategy – A Plan for Growing Sydney”.

“ The Urban Taskforce believes that significant reform is needed with local government particularly in metropolitan Sydney that improves efficiency and encourages a positive culture which embraces change. These reforms can done quickly and forcefully or through a more consultative, incremental approach and we suspect that ultimately lasting change will occur through the incremental approach.”

“The role of local government must be considered in relation to the role of state government to get an appropriate balance. The state government must take the big picture and local government focus on the local issues. To simply make local government similar to the state government will not lead to an effective sharing of responsibilities.”

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