Claims that the amalgamation of councils will drive down rates has been disproved by evidence from other states. Stephanie Stefanovic reports.

According to Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades, council amalgamations have actually driven rates higher in other states such as Queensland and Victoria.

“After the 2008 Queensland amalgamations, total council rate revenue in that state grew by 27.4 per cent, compared to NSW rate growth of 13.4 per cent over the same period,” said Clr Rhoades.

“According to the Commonwealth’s most recent Local Government National report 2012-13, Victorian council rates average $692 per capita compared to $499 in NSW – a difference of nearly 40 per cent.

“This is despite amalgamations in 1994 that reduced the number of Victorian councils from 210 to 78.”

Clr Rhoades said the Government has repeatedly claimed that the “Fit for the Future” reforms are designed to reduce rates, improve infrastructure and provide better services, however there remains a lack of evidence to prove this.

“The argument that bigger is always better lacks evidence, and is in fact contradicted by a larger body of research and real life experience that challenges that proposition,” he said.

“Recent research conducted by Lake Macquarie City Council General Manager Brian Bell demonstrated no discernible economies-of-scale efficiencies in bigger councils, and found amalgamated councils did not deliver better performance than non-amalgamated councils on any of the Fit for the Future performance indicators.”

“Many have argued that the real efficiency gain from amalgamations is that the State Government and property developers simply have fewer Councils to deal with.”

Clr Rhoades emphasised that the above fact is of no use to citizens, which means it should not be used to justify forced amalgamations.

Independent polling by market research company Micromex uncovered that over 60 per cent of residents in the Greater Sydney Basin opposed the amalgamation of their council, with only one-in-five residents in support of the merge.

“So not only is there a distinct lack of evidence to support the Government’s claims, there is also hard evidence that forced amalgamations are strongly opposed by residents and ratepayers,” said Clr Rhoades.