In 2012/2013 Queensland Treasury Corporation (QTC) provided de-amalgamation analyses identifying one-off costs that de-amalgamated councils were likely to incur. Four regional council areas were permitted to de-amalgamated at that time and the costs, in some cases, were sixty percent below the figures quoted by QTC. QLGRA committee member David Horner’s summary of the key points from the QTC report as presented to the Maryborough AGM are published below.
These are the first “Notes from Meeting” to be uploaded to the QLGRA website for members use. At the May 2015 meeting it was agreed that a summary of discussions from the Committee meeting and actions to be taken should be made available to members to help keep everyone across the issues and to assist in any action planned at local level.
There are plans in Wellington, New Zealand to merge 9 councils into one super council. Wellington radio announcer Tim Fookes interviewed QLGRA President Bob Johnson on the Queensland amalgamation experience.
To listen to the interview click on the link – http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/on-air/wellington/tim-fookes-morning-show/audio/bob-johnson-wellington-should-avoid-amalgamation/
Joseph Drew & Brian Dollery (2014) Separation anxiety: an empirical evaluation of the Australian Sunshine Coast Regional Council de-amalgamation, Public Money & Management, 34:3, 213-220, DOI: 10.1080/09540962.2014.908032
To read this article please click on the link … Separation Anxiety By J Drew & B Dollery
Our thanks go to Nigel Waistell, Councillor for Division 1 of the Scenic Rim Regional Council, who produced this report for use by his constituents. The document was produced to allow communities to better understand Council’s budgeting process; how their rating level is determined and how rates money is allocated within the Budget.
All dollar values pertaining to the Scenic Rim Council have been removed making the document relevent to all communities throughout Queensland. Your Council’s budget for 2014/15 should be on their website, from that you will find the figures you need to complete the charts in the report. Then you will have a clearer picture of how your dollars are allocated and spent. (editor)
Click the link to access the report ……. Budget Community Education
Following is a letter to all candidates in the forthcoming State election seeking their views on forced Council amalgamations.
I am/We are writing to you because you are a candidate for the state seat of (please paste seat here) in the upcoming state elections. May I/we wish you well and congratulate you for offering to serve this electorate.
We/I write to you on the issue of council amalgamations. It is my/our intention to publish the opinion of each candidate, and their party platform, on the following questions:
- Do you support the right of people to have a democratic referendum to decide if they wish to return to the local council of (paste shire name here) Shire; or whether they wish to remain part of (relevant name here) Regional Council? YES/NO
- If you answered NO, would you support a State wide inquiry into the effectiveness of the 2007/08 council boundary changes? YES/NO
- Do you have any further comment to make:
If you are currently undecided on this, could I please ask you to consider, and to make your own enquiries on some of the issues?
- The increases in rates and charges since the regional council’s formation.
- The increase in borrowing.
May we/I please have your views, and the views of your party on whether or not the ratepayers should be given a vote on this question? We/I will publish your response without editing or comment where possible so that others can be informed of your opinion when deciding for whom they wish to vote.
- in representation for ratepayers.
- The inaccessibility of councillors and staff.
- The reduction in grants.
- The increases in salaries for councillors and senior staff
- Increased secrecy of council affairs.
- Service reductions.
- Increased bureaucratic attitudes often combined with a significant increase in indoor workers and reductions in outdoor workers.
- The shift in council expenditure towards the regional centre at the cost of outlying small towns.
- The death of the small towns and villages, economically and socially
Further could we/ I remind you of the following comment from the LGAQ:
‘Councils are already accumulating new debt at the rate of $750 million a year. LGAQ President Margaret de Wit said the gravity of the situation had been made clear by recent State Audit Office findings that half of Queensland’s councils were on the edge of financial viability.
It is also relevant to mention the actual cost of de-amalgamation. When Noosa, Livingstone, Mareeba and Douglas Shire Council residents were given a vote to decide if they wanted to revert to their original shires in 2013, the Minister for Local Government and the Regional Mayors predicted huge one-off costs of de-amalgamating and huge on-going increases in rates following de-amalgamation. These dire predictions have all proved to be false (deliberately false?) and indeed the four councils that were given democracy have never looked back.
Please let me/us know if you have any questions. May I/we please have your response by please paste date here
The QLGRA Management Committee would encourage all members to consider engaging the media wherever you can – especially at the local level in the next 6 months as we lead up to the state election. If you have an enquiry from the media at a national or state level, please direct the enquiry to President Bob Johnson or Vice President Colin Hewett. However if it is a local media enquiry here are some suggestions on topics that you might wish to cover and some wording you might use. You can say the same thing in many different ways to ensure that your key points are not excluded from the article.
NOTES TO GUIDE INTERVIEWEES
• There is NO clear evidence that amalgamations saved money.
• They cost the shires millions (approx. $228M). Communities (Councils) were reimbursed a pittance ($28M). Costs continue to escalate while service declines.
• We have lost community ethos.
• We have lost our community identity.
• Thinkers worldwide advocate re-empowering communities to reduce costs, and produce efficiencies to provide a stable, sustainable base on which to rebuild the nation.
• Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance represents all regions seeks redress for the TRAVESTY OF THE FORCED AMALGAMATIONS by previous governments.
• It will advocate for its members to the Government, the LGAQ and the general public to give those Communities who want it a referendum to allow de-merger or boundary change or other means to re-empower the communities and to change the Queensland Constitution to that forced amalgamations can never happen again in this State.
POSITIVE POINTS for DE-MERGER to Shires
• Shire councils more approachable
• Shire councils more democratic
• Shire council communities better represented
• Shire councils more viable/sustainable
• Communities more in control of shire funds
• Local (shire) Councils more efficient
• Councils more accountable
• Our money spent in our shire
• We get our local shire identity back
• Local businesses is better off
• Council (community) can do things local way instead of central way
• We can ‘share services’ to minimise costs of those services. This is harder as size increases
• People are back in control of councils and their (rate) money and
• People will report waste/stop it.
NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF AMALGAMATIONS
Research of 2 decades of mergers of regional and rural councils to larger regional councils shows
1. No scale economies , GENERALLY DIS-ECONOMIES
2. No scope economies AS FEWER SENIOR MANAGERS DO NOT COST LESS overall
3. No improvements in viability GENERALLY THE REVERSE
4. No service improvement, in fact the opposite is the case
5. Worse sustainability
6. Worse representation
7. More community identity loss
8. Empirical and anecdotal evidence proves amalgamations to super regional councils are LESS SUSTAINABLE
• No economies of scale
• Decreases of viability/sustainability
• Identity loss terrible
• Business loss due to councils’ and residents’ BUSINESS going out of town
• Failure of representation for communities
• No savings based on area amalgamation
• Promised savings did not eventuate. State and federal governments cause the cost shifting/regulations reducing viability
• They are like shutting down a business
• Bigger is not better.
• Do not save money
• Do not improve viability
• Are less sustainable
• Are less able to react to shocks eg floods, fire etc
• Do not deliver better service
• Deliver less service
• Cost ratepayers more
• Do not reduce debt
• Enable councils to borrow more – and accrue bigger debts
• Do not produce economies of scale
• Seldom produce significant scope economies
• Result in loss of local business
• Result in drop in local economy
• Result in overcentralisation
• Is negative for decentralisation
• Produce diseconomies of scale – “an entirely unexpected result”
• Did not reduce the burden on local government
• Qld amalgamations in ‘90s and 2007/08 “did not produce scale economies but did produce the opposite – “an entirely unexpected result”.
• Promised savings did not eventuate
• LNP government process put in place a very restrictive process to deny many former council areas a chance to re-establish their local councils, to re-empower communities
• Only 4 got to and through their referenda
• Many more did not apply because process too complex – so not democratic
• The government has not carried out its pledge to the electorate to put local government back on track and give communities a voice through referenda.
• Their process has been a breach of natural justice
• Communities (in amalgamated councils) suffering under high rates/low service regimes, increasing debt levels, lost council representation and loss of sense of community