As the council elections were counting down we again hearing speculation about the possibility of Council Amalgamations. This comes around every so often and I therefore pose the question are smaller Councils better or not.
The article that has prompted my response can be found here.
The last time we had council amalgamations I was a resident of the then Noarlunga Council. It amalgamated with Happy Valley & Willunga Councils to form the City of Onkaparinga. We saw 3 smaller councils become one very larger council My memory of that amalgamation is that it was far from pleasant and I as a rate payer did not see a reduction in rates.
The argument goes that we will see a reduction in the salaries of CEO’s and Mayors etc. A plausible argument but hardly earth shattering in terms of the reduction the loss of a Mayor or a CE would make. The combination of our CEO’s salary and the Mayoral allowance is under $ 300,000. This equates to under $ 16.00 per assessable property.
Can we be more efficient. Yes. Every organisation known o man can be more efficient and the more successful of these are always striving for more efficiency.
So by all means let us focus on reforming the local government industry but let us not blindly go where we did when Onkaparinga was formed and think amalgamation is the answer.
Look at where the deficiencies are. Look at where improvements can be made. There are ways of improving any organisation or industry that does not entail amalgamations.
I would suggest that the concerns that the public may have the same whether we are talking smaller OR larger councils. Amalgamation is therefore not the answer. Indeed I would question what do you want by creating larger councils. I can tell you that the larger you make councils the more you will take the local out of local government.
So, lets have a conversation about local government reform but take amalgamations off the table as a starting point to the conversation.