‘Power grab’ overturned in NSW Parliament
Proposed changes to the Local Government Act, which would have limited local councils' ability to apply for government funding for capital works on council buildings were defeated in NSW Parliament yesterday.
Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren is hailing it an "enormous win" for councils and communities throughout the state.
"It was also a disastrous and embarrassing defeat for the Berejiklian Government that has waged war on local councils since they came to government nine long years ago," Mr Warren said.
"Not only have the Liberals and Nationals refused to financial support local councils and their communities, they also wanted to limit councils' investing in their local community to create and sustain local jobs and drive their local economies at time its desperately needed."
The changes (part of a Covid-19 emergency legislation amendment) were of specific relevance to Coffs Harbour City Council's bid to secure funding for the Cultural and Civic Space which includes council offices.
Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock spoke of the legislative changes on Ray Hadley's radio show late last month. Minister Hancock also urged Councillors to pause the $76.5m Gordon St project.
The appearance came just days after Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh sent an urgent letter to Coffs Harbour City Councillors prior to their last meeting where a motion to stall the project was being considered.
Mr Warren said that after Minister Hancock's appearance on commercial radio it was "bizarre" that she failed to attend NSW Parliament this week to speak in support of the changes.
"I know Shelley quite well and I like her as a person. She says what she means, and she means what she says."
The Minister's office responded to this saying the absence was due to Covid-19 pairing arrangements restricting the numbers present in NSW Parliament.
'Protection of local democracy' welcomed by NSW councils
The office of Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed the overturn of what they described as an 'attempted power grab'.
LGNSW President Linda Scott said it now means infrastructure incorporating council offices and service centres with community facilities such as libraries, youth centres and art galleries can still proceed.
Cr Scott said the Government used yesterday's one-day return of Parliament to unsuccessfully try to force through legislation that would have allowed Ministers to:
- Dictate the type of infrastructure built in local government areas.
- Place a cap on the maximum amount of income a council may earn.
- Dictate when and how councils collect and spend infrastructure contributions by local developers, with no sunset provision.
"Councils and communities welcome that the autonomy of local governments, the most trusted level of government, has been upheld by the NSW Parliament," Cr Scott said.
"Communities were rightly angry when they learnt the NSW Government, in the midst of a global pandemic, was seeking to grab power from democratically elected councils in order to stop infrastructure projects, kill local jobs and freeze councils' income and employment opportunities."
Successful NSW Greens amendments also overturned Ministerial discretion to:
- Intervene in council income
- Prevent expenditure on building and infrastructure projects that were or would be used as part of council decision-making functions.
"Councils are democratically elected by their communities - they must be free to determine the facilities supported by the people they represent. We welcome the NSW Parliament's recognition of this," Cr Scott said.