NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Local Government Paul Toole have announced record funding of up to $1 billion to ensure NSW has strong, modern councils to deliver the housing, jobs and local infrastructure people need.
"The Fit for the Future package is the most significant investment the State has ever made in the local government sector,” Mr Baird said. “We are committed to Rebuilding NSW and to achieve this we need a strong local government sector. “However this is not possible when more than one-third of the State’s councils are facing financial problems - losing more than $1 million a day.
"This package puts ratepayers first, so councils deliver better roads, footpaths and sporting fields.
"This is about councils working for the communities they represent and putting downward pressure on the rates you pay.
"The NSW Government wants communities to have confidence that their council is financially sound, operating efficiently and in a strong position to guide community growth and deliver quality services.
"This is a historic package that gives local councils the incentives needed to ensure they are in a position to provide the services and infrastructure their communities need and deserve."The Fit for the Future package includes:
- $258 million to assist councils who decide to merge and make the changes needed to provide better services to communities ($153m for Sydney councils and $105m for regional councils);
- Cheaper finance for councils to build and maintain the facilities that communities need, saving them up to $600 million;
- Up to $100 million savings through reductions in red tape and duplication;
- Improvements to the local government system, including the laws that govern it, the way the State works with councils and the support that councils receive.
Mr Toole said this record $1 billion reform package will provide support and incentives to help each council become Fit for the Future.
"The NSW Government takes this reform program very seriously. It recognises that without significant financial and other incentives and support, change-resistant councils may be hesitant to take up the reforms proposed by the Independent Local Government Review Panel," Mr Toole said.
"This generous package of incentives and support assists local councils to remove the obstacles that may have prevented reform and innovation in the past.
"It also puts in place a lasting legacy to ensure Fit for the Future councils continue to reap the benefits of this reform program.
"Our State cannot continue to be constrained by local government boundaries that were set more than 100 years ago.
"That's why we have created the $1 billion Fit for the Future package - to help councils take the next steps towards change.
"We are supporting councils that wish to voluntarily merge by providing financial incentives and other support to assist the process.
"We are also providing councils with cheaper finance to build and maintain the facilities that communities need such as roads, bridges, pools and sporting fields - saving them up to $600 million."The Fit for the Future package is based on the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s recommendations following three years of research and consultation.Councils will have until 30 June 2015 to submit their proposal on how they plan to be Fit for the Future. It will be assessed by independent experts against independently-established criteria.