More forced amalgamations planned for NSW!

Extract from an article by Jonathon Howard in Free Times Thursday 30 May 2013
Southern Downs Regional Council mayor Peter Blundell has urged the NSW State Government to approach forced amalgamations with “extreme caution”, as Tenterfield Shire Council and Glen Innes Severn Council face merger plans similar to those used in Queensland during 2007.
Mayor Blundell said the benefits of forced amalgamations, which were introduced in Queensland to deal with mounting debts and shared administration duties, were “debatable at best”.
“I would urge extreme caution from the NSW State Government process of any forced amalgamations and to implement those only as an extreme necessity,” Mayor Blundell said.
His comments came as Tenterfield Shire Council has been called upon to justify why the council, which is grappling with mounting debt, should not merge with Glen Innes Severn Council.
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Differential Rates update – Landlords continue to pay

A couple of weeks ago in our article  “Differential Rates – Landlords may not have to pay” we advised that for some years a number of Councils throughout Queensland, including the Scenic Rim Regional Council, had applied an additional rates charge on Investment properties.  This practice had been challenged in the Supreme Court by a group of Mackay property investors and found to be an illegal practice (30th April 2014).  

Since then, as reported in The Courier Mail of 5 June 2014, the state government has rushed through laws allowing Queensland councils to charge investors more than owner-occupiers.  The legislation is retrospective.

Effectively, this means the state government with its retrospective intervention in the matter, has reversed the Supreme Courts ruling in favour of the Mackay property investment group. The new law has rendered the Mackay Council’s legal appeal redundant and allows Queensland Councils to rate rental properties higher than owner occupied properties. It remains to be seen whether or not the state governments reversal of a Supreme Courts ruling will be challenged! 

Astrid Kennedy

 

 

 

Douglas Shire Council – Better than expected opening financial position

Douglas Shire Council has officially financially separated from Cairns Regional Council with a better than expected opening position.

Independent auditor Grant Thornton has signed off on the final financial statements prepared by the Financial Due Diligence Working Group. The final financial statements show a net cash balance of $19.371 million for Douglas Shire Council as at December 31, 2013. This figure includes de-amalgamation costs of $2.938 million.

The better than anticipated opening financial position means de-amalgamation costs have been absorbed without rate increases and the drawdown of a Queensland Treasury Corporation working capital facility has been avoided.

Douglas Shire Council Mayor Julia Leu said the strong opening financial position was a fantastic result, especially considering Queensland Treasury Corporation’s estimate of a closing cash balance as at June 30, 2012, of $9.085 million was exceeded for the same period by more than 60 per cent.

“We are in a strong financial position and our cash balance well exceeds our liabilities,” she said.

“This is a fantastic result for the people of Douglas and another endorsement of our resourceful and very capable Council.”

Mayor Leu said the strong opening financial position was supported by some outstanding achievements already recorded by Douglas Shire Council just four months into its existence.

“The task of creating a new Council was a challenging one considering the tight timeframes but I think the results in the first four months speak for themselves,” Mayor Leu said.

“In addition to dealing with a major cyclone event which caused an estimated $20 million in damage, Council has reached many milestones in a short period.

“Council is on track to develop our Corporate Plan which outlines our goals and actions for the next five years.

“We have developed and implemented a community engagement framework, a community grants and resources program and an events strategy.

“We are facilitating the introduction of technology that will increase efficiencies and deliver improved service delivery and management of road assets.

“Council has also begun a review of the existing planning scheme for the Douglas Shire and established a working group for our Landscape Management Plan.

“These are just a few examples of what Council has achieved in a very short timeframe while also managing the de-amalgamation process and a damaging cyclone and it should give confidence to our communities that their future is in very capable hands.”

First printed 30 April. Reproduced with permission.

Letter to Chambers of Commerce

14 May 2014

The Secretary
Chamber of Commerce

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are writing to introduce the Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (QLGRA) to you and the members of your Chamber of Commerce.

The QLGRA was established in July 2013 in response to the plight of shires that were forcibly amalgamated in 2008 by the previous Labor Party government and were then denied the opportunity to de-amalgamate contrary to the promise of the current LNP government.

Amalgamation has had remarkably similar effects wherever it was implemented. Common experiences include but are not limited to:
• The loss of contact with a locally based Mayor and Councillors;
• The loss of council expenditure to the new central regional town. All types of businesses are affected – banks, post offices, newsagencies, florists, lawyers, schools, mechanical workshops etc;
• Reduction in economic development in the affected town;
• The potential sale of local council offices and other assets.

A functioning council office in a small town is a corner stone of democracy, development, community caring and disaster management. The aims of the QLGRA to remedy this are listed overleaf.

In this letter we ask your organisation to do two things:
Firstly to consider joining QLGRA as a full or associate member. A full member would view the aims of QLGRA (see over) as a primary purpose of their organisation. A full member has voting rights. Associate membership is open to organisations who agree with the aims of QLGRA but for whom this is not their primary purpose. We also have individual memberships for those interested.

Secondly, to please complete the attached survey. The information will assist QLGRA to further understand the issues caused by amalgamations. Answers will be kept confidential if requested. Please complete even if you do not intend to join.

Please do not hesitate to contact Vice President Colin Hewitt on 07 32837208 or Joanna Kesteven Secretary on 07 54635304 if you would like further information.

Yours Sincerely

RN Johnson,
Chairman,
Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance Inc.

GOALS OF THE QLD LOCAL GOVERNMENT REFORM ALLIANCE

I. To promote community acceptable natural Local Government boundaries that reflect locally held beliefs about community and identity, and provide local amenity and service;

II. Recognition in the State Constitution of Local Government as a legal entity with a clearly articulated role in governing, such that it can only be changed after a majority vote in a properly constituted referendum;

III. Retention and maintenance of reasonable levels of State and Federal Grants and Subsidies to support the necessary and important role of Local Government in providing and supporting rural and regional infrastructure serving not only local communities but also the state and the nation.

Strategic goals:
IV. To promote the benefits of effective, community based ‘local’ government throughout the general public and as an area of learning and study in tertiary institutions;

V. To share the commonality of our cause with all amalgamated shires and promote the sharing of strategy and resources to overcome barriers to de-amalgamation and boundary changes.

MISSION STATEMENT

“An alliance of Queensland organisations and individuals aimed at re-empowering communities.
Its main objectives are to lobby strongly for State Government (a) to recognise local authority based on community of interest that reflects commonly held beliefs about community and identity, local amenity and service, and (b) to also articulate constitutional recognition of Local government in the Queensland Constitution such that it can be changed only by a referendum.”

How To Join
Please see attached membership form. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Joanna Kesteven (Secretary) on 07 54635304.

Letter to Chambers of Commerce – Survey

Chamber Of Commerce – Queensland Towns affected by amalgamation.

SURVEY

1. Could you please advise if your town was part of the amalgamation process of 2008 or the 1990’s? YES/NO
If so how did was the process implemented? Our Council of ________________________ was amalgamated with _________________________________ .

If you answered YES to the above question, please proceed.
2. In a few short sentences could you please describe the impact of the amalgamation on your town of __________________ on:

• Local Businesses
____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

• Community Groups
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

• Accessibility of elected representatives
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

• Rates and business costs
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

• Development applications
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

• Other impacts
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

3. Would you support the QLGRA request for a full review of council boundaries with a view to returning them to natural communities of interest? YES/NO
Comment: _____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

————————————————————————————————————————
We wish the contents of this survey to remain confidential YES/NO

Signed: _________________________ Date________________
Printed name: _________________________ Position: _______________________________
Contact Phone number: _______________________________
Please return the completed survey to Joanna Kesteven at 32 Panorama Drive Roadvale 4310 or scan to joeandjoanna@bigpond.com. Please feel free to photocopy this and pass to your members – individuals are welcome to participate.
Please return by June 30, 2014.

Redcliffe by-election draws a Demerger advocate

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Len Thomas, Independent candidate for the upcoming Redcliffe by-election will officially open his campaign office at Shop 3 Jetty Arcade, Redcliffe Parade at 11.00 am on Monday 13th January.
Although Len is a well known identity throughout the Penisula he said, “I am surprised at the many offers of support I have received over the past week or so for this campaign”
“The people are telling me they have had enough of the treatment Redcliffe has received at the hands of the two major parties over the past 6 – 7 years” he said, “Offers of help are coming in from a broad cross section of people from all across the state.”
“Water and electricity pricing is of major concern and groups which have been denied a chance to vote on deamalgamating back to their own local councils see Redcliffe as more than a small local by election, but a state wide litmus test for the Government on  their failed election promises.”
“It is the people I am listening to and will present their concerns to parliament when elected.” he said.
“I invite everyone to visit the office between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm Monday to Friday and let me know their concerns for Redcliffe.”
Many people are expected to crowd the Jetty Arcade to cheer Len on to victory.

Colin Hewett
Campaign Manager
Len Thomas
Independent for Redcliffe.

Ph: 0435 033 723