Councils not 'a dodgy get rich quick scheme': Paul Toole

Councils not 'a dodgy get rich quick scheme': Paul Toole

"Seeing change where change hasn't happened for a long period of time": Paul Toole.  Photo: Daniel Munoz

"Seeing change where change hasn't happened for a long period of time": Paul Toole. Photo: Daniel Munoz


Minister says local government reforms the most significant NSW has ever seen.


After a torrid year for the Baird government in the local government sector, Paul Toole has championed the government's sweeping reforms as "the most significant this state has ever seen" in the sector.

Addressing the annual local government conference in Wollongong on Tuesday, Mr Toole told the group of mayors, councillors and administrators from across the state the government had invested $1 billion to deliver reform that he said was long overdue.

"We are seeing change where change hasn't happened for a long period of time," the Local Government Minister said.

"There have been changes around financial sustainability, changes around governance and integrity, changes around regulatory reform and we've started the process of a new Local Government Act."

But the minister's case failed to placate aggrieved councillors from councils still embroiled in legal challenges over the forced amalgamations, which the government announced in May.

Fielding a number of questions on council mergers, Mr Toole echoed the business case outlined by Premier Mike Baird during his address to the conference on Monday, claiming that "savings and benefits had already been delivered into communities".

"This has been an extensive process," Mr Toole said.

Citing reports from KMPG, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal and Ernst and Young, Mr Toole said four years of research showed "changes were needed in the sector".

Touching on the fraught issue of council integrity, which saw corruption inquires launched into Botany and Auburn councils this year, Mr Toole claimed credit for ending the perception of a council career as a "get rich quick scheme".

"There are a small number of people in recent years that have actually let the whole sector down," he said.

Councillors who directly profited from council decisions now faced new integrity measures, including potential Supreme Court action to recover the profits, he said.

"Anyone running on council or serving on council will no longer see it as a dodgy get rich quick scheme."

While Mr Toole emphasised that most councillors "do the right thing", he conceded the reputation of the sector had been damaged by such scandals.

The minister foreshadowed further changes to the Local Government Act over the next year to ensure "that we are strengthening the system here in this state".

Sydney Morning Herald


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