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Time counting down in Fit for the Future talks

Bega Valley Shire mayor, Michael Britten said talks will continue with Bombala.
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Bega Valley Shire mayor, Michael Britten has said that he has some sympathy for Bombala Shire Council as it goes through the fit for future local council review.

Bombala along with neighbouring Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River Councils have been classed as “not fit”as part of theIndependent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Report health check of NSW councils.

Bega Valley has maintained a relationship with Bombala, often providing services to the smaller shire.

Cr Britten said: “Bombala is different (from the other two tablelands councils); it’s met its financial criteria but doesn’t have the scale and population. You need at least 10,000 people in a shire. I have some sympathy for Bombala.

“We already provide services to Bombala. They need to be amalgamated somewhere; we will see where we can help,” Cr Britten said.

Asked whether Bombala could be amalgamated with Bega Valley, Cr Britten said it was “unlikely” adding thatCooma, Bombala and Snowy River are best suited to be together.

However Cr Britten has said that talks will continue with Bombala.

Pressure is continuing from the state government for all councils to continue their talks with neighbours and look at how they may produce efficienciesof scale.

NSW Infrastructure Minister, Andrew Constance said: “Statewide there are some glaring problems.”

He said that while Bega Valley and Eurobodalla were sound, it was vital that they continued to talk to neighbouring councils.

Mr Constance said the government believed$2 billion could be saved.

“There’s no push either way but ultimately everyone expects to see improvements. We’re trying to improve the circumstances for ratepayers,” Mr Constance said.

IPART has found that 56 per cent of councils in regional NSW are ‘not fit’ for the future.

Mr Constance said:““This IPART report shows the situation is now critical and that action is needed to ensure ratepayers get value for money and the services and infrastructure they deserve.”

The IPART report found reducing waste and red tape through local government mergers could free up funds for NSW ratepayers, to stabilise council rates and fund better services and new infrastructure for communities.

Councils are being asked to come back to the state government by November18 with their proposals and respond tothese IPART findings.

The NSW Government has also announced a new Stronger Communities Fund, providing each new council in regional NSW up to $10 million to invest in community infrastructure projects such as sporting fields, libraries, and parks and funding of up to $5 million for each new council to ensure ratepayers do not pay for the up-front costs of merging.

This funding will be available to those mergers agreed to by councils and the NSW government.

“Four years of independent research, analysis and consultation with councils and the community has shown that the current system of local government is not working as well as it should be,” Mr Constance said.

He has urged Bega Valley Shire Council to consider theIPART findings and hold discussions with neighbouring councils and the NSW government.

“The savings and Stronger Communities Fund will enable each council to make a decision on whether to invest their extra funds into better services, more infrastructure or lower rates for their community.

“We know that there is no one size fits all in the regions. That’s why we have provided $5.3 million for regional Joint Organisations and $4 million for an Innovation Fund to help regional and rural councils that are struggling financially to make the improvements needed,” Mr Constance said.

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