Labor MPs call for public inquiry into Council

Shadow Minister for Central Coast, David Harris

Labor MPs on the Central Coast have called on the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, to establish a public inquiry into the collapse of Central Coast Council and the structural problems it has faced since its establishment in 2016 by the State Government.

They say with Wyong Shire and Gosford City Councils amalgamated against the wishes of local residents by the former Baird Liberal Government, structural problems were baked into the new organisation from day one.

“The Government has since appointed an administrator, and there are threats of a 15 per cent rate increase, job losses and service cuts across the Central Coast Local Government Area,” they said in a joint statement.

Deputy NSW Labor Leader and Member for Swansea, Yasmin Catley said the “triple-whammy” of service cuts, layoffs and tax increases shows that there was a structural problem underpinning the Liberals’ decision to amalgamate the two councils.

Shadow Minister for the Central Coast and Member for Wyong, David Harris said, the MPs wanted an examination of the financial position of the former Wyong and Gosford Councils before amalgamation as well as the structural weaknesses of the new Council.

Member for the Entrance, David Mehan, said amalgamation was largely to blame for Council’s financial woes.

“It is not acceptable for the community to foot the bill for the ideological folly of a failed council amalgamation process which the Liberals persisted with in spite of significant public opposition,” he said.

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, called on the Minister to stop “playing politics” with Central Coast Council and guarantee a transparent and honest review of the Council’s position.

“Central Coast Council is an amalgamated Council established by the Liberals in the face of stiff community opposition,” she said.

“They need to take responsibility for the mess they’ve created.”

Administrator Dick Persson has previously said amalgamation costs were not one of the major contributing factors to Council’s financial difficulties.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said the Administrator’s 30 Day Report makes it “crystal clear” that amalgamation is not the cause of Central Coast Council’s financial situation.

“In the first year after amalgamation, Central Coast Council recorded a surplus budget position,” Crouch said.

“Poor decision-making and significant failures by a group of councillors and Council senior staff have led to the terrible outcome of debt totalling $565M.”

Terry Collins