Inner West Labor councillors voted on June 14 to put a fake demerger business case on public exhibition, despite Greens and Independent councillors arguing that the process needed to be improved.
The vote was 8–7, with Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne using his casting vote to get it over the line.
The Greens and Independent councillors had sought, unsuccessfully, to see and discuss the terms of reference given to the Morrison Low consulting firm.
Council has been split down the middle on de-amalgamation, with Labor councillors taking every opportunity to deny councillors, local government experts and residents some input into the process.
Byrne has repeatedly said he will adhere to the 62.5% vote to demerge, but Labor councillors have voted down a council committee with local government experts and residents to improve the business case and have ignored residents’ queries about how their feedback will be incorporated into the final document.
Labor councillors tabled a new motion at the June meeting which included putting the draft case on exhibition now, and asking the council’s audit and risk committee to send a letter to all residents warning them of the “risks” of demerger. The motion also said that that it would be setting up a meeting to hear from the Council's general manager and Morrison Low.
Brian Halstead from Save Our Councils said the draft Morrison Low business case reads as an argument for council to stay merged. “It does not look at possible options for how the three former councils of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville could demerge while sharing services,” he told Green Left.
“It does not properly look at implementing the wishes of the community to demerge. Nor does it propose to the Minister how that could be done. It reads like an updated comparison of the old reformed councils’ theoretical performance with the current council planned performance. It reads a lot like a justification of keeping current council.”
Greens councillor Liz Atkins told Green Left: “The authors of the draft business case acknowledged that it is missing a critical piece of work: the detailed qualitative benefits of demerger.
“The Greens’ proposal would have ensured a more holistic view was included in the draft, through a panel of local government experts and independent community representatives, before proper wider community engagement.”
“Labor councillors’ refusal to agree to broader consultation shows they are happy with a shoddy case which has little chance of success with the NSW government,” Pip Hinman from Residents for Deamalgamation (RFD) told Green Left.
Michelle Hacking, also from RFD, said: “It’s disappointing that a limited Business Case using unsupported assertions and with no alignment to 62.5% of residents’ wishes will be put on public exhibition.”
[Come to a Keep our Councils Local protest outside NSW Parliament on August 9, organised by Residents for Deamalgamation and NSW Demerger Alliance.]