Labor calls for council merging plan to come under spotlight

MOVES to fast-track council amalgamations in NSW have hit a snag in the shape of two separate calls for an inquiry into the Baird Government's Fit for the Future plan.

Labor's Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose has called for an investigation into the plan that aims to merge 41 Sydney councils into about 18 by the year's end.

Regional councils are also being considered for amalgamation, including several on the North Coast that are likely to be deemed unprofitable under scrutiny from the program.

Mr Primrose did not believe the Baird Government's pre-election promise there would be no forced amalgamations.

"Mike Baird is hell-bent on forcing councils to amalgamate, regardless of whether it's the best option for communities across NSW," he said.

"Numerous councils have raised their concerns about the timeline, criteria and methodology imposed by (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) and the government.

"Councils will have less than a month to respond to IPART's final methodology but there is still no information as to whether there is a population target for councils or what it is.

"IPART will have less than a day to assess each council's submission.

"These submissions will be hundreds of pages long - impossible to review in just a day."

Christian Democrat Paul Green also called for an inquiry after gaining support from the Shooters and Fishers and the Greens.

The two inquiries are expected to go the way of Sydney's councils, and merge together.

Councils across the state have until June 30 to lodge their submissions to IPART, which will deem them either "fit" or "unfit" to continue as single entities.

-APN NEWSDESK



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