Labor rejects majority vote to demerge Inner West Council

March 26, 2024
Community gathers for deamalgamation
Residents for Deamalgamation and community members protest outside NSW Parliament in 2021, ahead of the deamalgamation vote. Photo: Peter Boyle

The New South Wales Boundaries Commission said on March 13 it does not support Gadigal/Sydney's Inner West Council (IWC) deamalgamating.

Minister for local government Ron Hoening agreed, saying there is “compelling evidence that the business case presented by Council will cost the community more money than it saves”.

“Consigning three new councils to budget deficits each year until at least 2028 would not be in the best interests of the Inner West community.”

Rochelle Porteous from Residents for Deamalgamation (RFD) said Labor’s rejection of the Labor-run council’s business case is not a surprise, because it was inadequate.

“Residents are furious. They voted 62.5% for deamalgamation and once again their voice has been ignored,” Porteous said.

“This was a political stitch-up that has been a long time in the making.”

Two out of three residents voted to demerge the giant IWC in a 2021 poll conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission.

Pip Hinman from RFD said the “Labor-run IWC claims it has done what it had to do to respect the resident’s vote to demerge, but it hasn’t.

“The Labor-dominated council was asked by residents and other councillors to have input into the business case and were refused.”

“The result was a business case that did not sketch out how a demerged council could work — including which services could be shared.

“It did not advance a plan to mitigate risks, including council jobs. It was essentially a business case against demerger.”

This is why the Greens and independent councillors voted against sending the deficient business case to the then-Coalition government in 2022. But since Labor has the majority of one vote on council, it does whatever it wants.

When councillors pointed out that the business case was inadequate, Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne told them to “do their own”.

Porteous said the case sent by IWC to the NSW Boundaries Commission was a “political case, written for Labor councillors who did not want council to demerge”.

“The IWC was the first — and looks likely to be the only — merged council to give its residents a transparent poll on the forced mergers of 2016,” Hinman said.

Labor’s new “deamalgamation” bill, due to be put to the Legislative Assembly, removes the ability for councils to initiate such a consultation — unless agreed to by the minister.

Labor’s decision to accept a faulty NSW Boundaries Commission verdict on a faulty IWC deamalgamation case is a “kick in the teeth for the Inner West”, Hinman said, adding that rates have risen and services have declined.

Independent councillor John Stamolis said Mayor Byrne has “led an unrelenting campaign to stay merged”.

He said the demerger poll was “a democratic vote of 102,000 Inner West voters, conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission” and said it is time to “review and remove undemocratic processes like the Boundaries Commission” given that “elections and polls express the will of voters”.

“The rushed Boundaries Commission report confirms that, after eight years, Inner West Council has not realised significant economies of scale, or net cost savings, as a result of the merger," Stamolis said. "It confirms that the Council continually runs ‘deficits’."

[Follow Residents for Deamalgamation on Facebook.]

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