High council amalgamation costs draw swift reactions

Shadow Minister for the Central Coast, David Harris, Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, and Member for The Entrance, David Mehan, at Gosford waterfront on July 13

Labor MPs on the Central Coast are angered by the “hefty cost forced on the community” by the amalgamation of former Gosford and Wyong Councils.

It was reported in last week’s Chronicle that it has cost Council almost $39M more to amalgamate, on top of the $10M it got from the NSW Government’s Implementation Fund.

The costs were revealed in a report to Central Coast Council’s meeting on July 27.

Costs included $8.3M to harmonise salaries and to resolve back dated entitlements for staff of the two former councils.

It will take until June 2022 to complete the amalgamation process, but Council CEO, Gary Murphy, said it would take a decade for the benefits to be seen and all consolidation to be bedded down.

Shadow Minister for Local Government, Greg Warren, said the Berejiklian Government’s bungled forced Council mergers policy was a dismal failure, despite claiming councils would be better off after amalgamating.

“The Central Coast community is paying the price for this ill-considered policy and that $39M should

“The State Government contributed only $10M towards the cost,” he said.

Deputy NSW Labor Leader and Swansea MP, Yasmin Catley, is livid over the cost incurred by the community.

“The reality is that it’s people on the Central Coast that suffer most from this government’s incompetence,” Ms Catley said.

“This is a cost that ratepayers on the Central Coast should never have had to bear.”

Shadow Minister for Central Coast and Wyong MP, David Harris, was equally unimpressed.

“Ratepayers are bearing the burden of the government’s ideological pursuit of council amalgamations through higher rates and less infrastructure.

“Every rate rise, every hike in charges, every infrastructure project cancelled is a direct result of under funding the cost of amalgamation.”

The Entrance MP, David Mehan, added that the Berejiklian Government forced the amalgamation of Wyong and Gosford councils then failed to support it.

“Worse, they directed Stronger Communities Fund money meant for amalgamated councils to Liberal held seats without amalgamated councils before the last State election,” he said.

Meanwhile, an inquiry by the Public Accountability Committee of the NSW Parliament is underway to investigate the integrity, efficacy and value for money across a range of grant programs and various portfolios, including the well-publicised Stronger Communities Fund.

Parliamentary Secretary for Central Coast, Adam Crouch, says the NSW Liberal Government committed $10M for infrastructure and $10M for amalgamation costs to the newly merged Council in 2016.

He said in 2018 the government committed a further $5.5M for Council to deliver park upgrades, surf club renovations, roadworks, upgraded sporting and recreational facilities as well as youth facilities.

“Central Coast Council has also received more than $140M in grant funding from the NSW Liberal Government in the past two years alone,” Crouch said.

“This is more than almost any other council in NSW.

“In stark contrast, the NSW Labor Government amalgamated councils in 2004 and did not provide a single dollar of financial support.

“Central Coast Council’s own update report confirms that the amalgamation has resulted in more co-ordinated and aligned service delivery for our community,” Crouch said.

Sue Murray

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