This week, Randwick Council made an historic decision to merge with our neighbouring councils Waverley and Botany Bay.
This was a very difficult decision for us, but one which a majority of my fellow Councillors agree is the best option for our council, residents and ratepayers.
Clearly, if it was up to us, all 15 Councillors would vote to stand alone. Randwick is one of the state's leading councils - our finances and asset management are strong, our community is extremely satisfied with our services and our managerial and political leadership is very effective.
However, as you're probably aware, the State Government is pushing ahead with its Fit for the Future reform program and wants to see bigger councils across Sydney. Their default position is a mega global city council of more than 500,000 residents comprising Randwick, Sydney, Waverley, Botany and Woollahra.
If we do nothing, or propose to stand alone – the Government will proceed with its plan. We'll become a "suburban outpost" of a global city council based at Town Hall. One that would no doubt see high-rise engulf our city and our sense of community completely lost.
We don't want this to happen. We don't want to lose our eastern beaches identity and our voice. We want to keep local representation and I know this is what most residents want too.
By proposing a credible alternative to the global city we are controlling our destiny and protecting our unique eastern beaches identity.
What you told us
I would like to thank the 8,000 residents who took part in the most comprehensive community engagement program in the council's history. I posted two letters and information packs and a reply-paid survey to 65,000 households covering all residents and ratepayers. Lots of people had their say through reply-paid surveys, online surveys, telephone surveys, focus groups and information stalls.
You told us:
- most people don't want change, but if mergers must happen, 90% would prefer an eastern suburbs council;
- 49% of people would prefer Randwick to stand alone and 51% want a merger;
- a Randwick / Waverley merger is one of the most preferred merger options as it keeps an eastern suburbs identity with beaches, parks and families.
How will it affect you?
Council has conducted detailed financial modelling to look at all options. A Randwick/Waverley/Botany merger will:
- deliver cost savings of $143M over 10 years which can be spent on new and improved services;
- not increase total rates collected;
- maintain all existing services;
- protect jobs;
- continue all existing planned programs; and
- eliminate the backlog of work required on roads, footpaths, parks, drains and buildings.
There's still a lot that's unknown such as how many Councillors there'll be, the name of the council and the office locations, but from a resident perspective I'm confident that there'll be minimal impact as we work through these issues and transition to a new organisation.
All usual council services will keep operating - your bin will be picked up, the parks and sports fields will be maintained, we'll assess DAs and run festivals, libraries and community activities.
What happens now?
We now need to seek support from our merger partners to lodge a joint submission with the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal by 30 June 2015.
I have had constructive discussions with Waverley Council and they will be considering their position in the coming weeks.
IPART will publicly exhibit all council submissions in July 2015 for comment before making merger recommendations to the Government in October 2015.
It's likely the new council will then come into effect at the Local Government elections in September 2016.
My commitment to you
There's still a lot of work to do and we need to wait for the NSW Government to announce their final decision later this year.
I'll make sure that you continue to be kept informed about this important issue during the coming months.
You may like to:
- read the 26 May 2015 Council resolution
- read our media statement
- view the Council's Options Analysis
- view the results of Council's community consultation
- visit the IPART website
Councillor Ted Seng
Mayor of Randwick