Campaign for de-amalgamation of Inner West Council gains traction

Norton Street, Leichhardt - one of the main thoroughfares of the Inner West Council LGA, and the main street of the former Leichhardt Council. Photo: Inner West Council/Facebook.

By TILEAH DOBSON

NSW residents will be heading to the polls on Saturday, 4 December to take part in the local government elections, voting for candidates and parties with various issues in mind.

In Sydney’s Inner West, one of the biggest issues is the topic of de-amalgamation, with many residents of the Inner West Council hoping for a de-amalgamation of the ‘super council’, which was created on 12 May, 2016 when the once separate councils of Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville were merged.

The three LGAs were not the only ones to merge in 2016, with the NSW Government merging 42 councils into 19, ostensibly to create a more efficient, cost-effective and streamlined local government system. Critics say that, in practice, the expected cost savings haven’t eventuated and that residents of the merged LGAs are being denied true local representation.

On 4 December, Inner West Council residents will be polled in conjunction with the election, as to whether they would like to see the council split up. A resident-led campaign to de-amalgamate the council has recently gained traction, with flyers placed in residents’ letterboxes by the Residents for De-amalgamation group in the lead up to the elections.

The flyers promote a ‘yes’ response to the question of whether Inner West Council should de-amalgamate and return to its previous arrangement of three smaller local councils.

Since the merger, residents have felt ignored by the larger council. Photo: Inner West Council/Facebook.

The movement has the support of several councillors and candidates, including Socialist Alliance candidate in the Damun (Stanmore) ward, Pip Hinman.

“The Residents for De-amalgamation group, formed after a well-attended Zoom meeting in July, shows that there is interest in returning to the former Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield Councils,” Hinman said.

“The forced amalgamation of three councils in the Inner West has led to rate rises, a deterioration of services and far less representation,” she said.

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Residents for De-amalgamation isn’t the only movement trying to return the councils to their previous incarnations. A state-wide group, Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA), has formed and includes both country and city-based councils.

“The newly-formed … DNA is uniting people from across NSW who are campaigning for councils to give their residents a say. They will be launching on November 9 at Parliament House at 12 noon,” Hinman said.

“Residents were not listened to before the forced merger and they should have a direct say in whether the amalgamation has worked. If a majority says it hasn’t, the incoming council will have to continue to work with residents to construct a good case to put the NSW Government – which must be made to pay for any de-merger.”

Socialist Alliance candidate for Daum (Stanmore), Pip Hinman, is encouraging voters to say ‘yes’ to the proposed de-amalgamation of Inner West Council. Photo: Peter Boyle.

Audits in 2020 that date back to the 2016 mergers, analysed by LSI Consulting, have highlighted that 19 of 20 merged councils have lost money and have underperformed when compared to the 108 councils that weren’t merged. The Inner West Council was the second-worst financial performer, according to the reports.

“Councils need to serve the community. Councillors should be connected and accountable to their local communities,” Hinman told the Sentinel.

“The call for smaller councils is not about nostalgia; it’s about putting the local back into local government. People feel alienated enough from all levels of government: it’s at the local level that residents in the Inner West have been very involved.”

For more information regarding the 2021 NSW local government elections, visit https://www.elections.nsw.gov.au/Elections/Local-government-elections/Local-Government-Elections-2021.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.