Amalgamations survey reveals strong mayoral support

A Property Council survey has found that 80% of mayors across South Australia support voluntary council amalgamations, rekindling the local government reform opportunity.

The online survey was conducted across October and November 2016, with 34 respondents, representing 50% of the total number of mayors in metropolitan and regional South Australia.

This survey follows the release of an ACIL Allen report in October, which revealed that a reduction in councils from 68 to 32 would deliver savings to councils and the community of around $65 million per annum and result in a total benefit of $505 million.

SA Executive Director of the Property Council Daniel Gannon said local government reform is a potential game changer for South Australia’s local communities, but also for the state’s economy.

“What is now clear is that the benefits of recasting council boundaries substantially outweigh the costs, and there is significant support from mayors to make this happen on a voluntary basis,” he said.

“Any effort to implement local government reform will not be easy, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. The first step for our state’s policy-makers is to talk to our mayors to make this happen.

“These results reveal that 80% of mayors support voluntary amalgamations and almost half agree that councils are far too reliant on a relatively narrow rates base, which adds more expense for homeowners and business ratepayers.

“Extraordinarily, half of our mayors believe that councils need to significantly reduce costs, which is why council amalgamations as a policy initiative makes abundant economic sense.

“For the naysayers, these survey results are a damning outcome and justifies the need to take a magnifying glass to local government reform.” Mr Gannon said the survey also revealed that:

  1. 80% of respondents support voluntary council amalgamations.
  2. 18% support forced amalgamations.
  3. 50% support exploring idea of recasting boundaries.
  4. 44% agree that councils are too reliant on a relatively narrow rate base.
  5. 50% agree that councils need to significantly reduce costs, increase efficiencies to avoid ongoing pressures on rate base.
  6. 60% believe that councils should explore new business models to reduce reliance on rates.
  7. 38% believe that action needs to be taken to address highest rates in nation tag.
  8. 25% believe that the number of executive positions across LG should be reduced.
  9. 38% believe there is too much inconsistency (management, financials, demographics).
  10. 47% believe that we have too many councillors.
  11. 59% believe it should be mandatory for councils to publish performance data.
  12. 89% believe that councils should play a greater role in economic development.
  13. 56% do not agree with LGA characterisation that property sector is representative of corporate greed.

 

Background information
Property is South Australia’s largest private sector employer and biggest industry, accounting for 10.8% of the state’s economic activity (or $10.5 billion).

It builds prosperity by paying $4.4 billion in wages and salaries – one in six people draw their wage directly or indirectly from property – and one million South Australians have a stake in property through their super funds.

Property is the largest single industry contributor paying 56.6% of state taxes, local government rates, fees and charges.

 

Media contact: Daniel Gannon | E dgannon@propertycouncil.com.au