Labor keeps Gosford, increases margin.
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Pic: YouTube. The NSW Liberals held onto Manly and North Shore in the state by-elections, despite serious swings against it, while Paralympian basketball player Liesl Tesch won Gosford and extended Labor’s lead to become the state’s first MP in a wheelchair. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be relieved that she has made it through her first election test since former Premier Mike Baird quit in January and comforted that her party was able to hold on to what were previously considered safe seats. Ms Berejiklian would have been haunted by fears of a repeat of the Orange by-election upset last November when the Shooters and Fishers toppled the Nationals candidate but in the end she was spared the indignity. The Premier had admitted she was braced for 'huge swings' against the government but added that sometimes voted just needed to vent. Liberal James Griffin retained Mike Baird’s old seat of Manly, albeit with a primary vote swing of 24.7 per cent swing against him, while Felicity Wilson took ex-NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s former North Shore seat, where the swing was 15.4 per cent against the government. Some pundits had been predicting that North Shore could fall to Independent Carolyn Corrigan and cause Ms Berejiklian a major embarrassment but it was never transpired. Pressure had been mounting on the Liberals in the weeks leading up to the by-elections, with Mr Griffin and Ms Wilson both mired in controversy. A company Mr Griffin co-founded was accused of trading while insolvent and Ms Wilson was caught exaggerating how long she had lived on the North on her statutory declaration and nomination form. She later slipped up on social media, claiming that she had cast her first ever vote for John Howard in Bennelong in 2001. Fairfax countered her claim by saying she lived in Marrickville at the time, in the Grayndler electorate, and could not have done so. Ms Berejiklian would have been expected a backlash against her government, at least partly made up of those disaffected by transport problems, overcrowded schools, forced council mergers, greyhound racing and NSW hospital scandals. The Premier will be preparing in earnest for the next state elections in 2019 when voters may be more eager to punish the incumbent government after eight years in office. It was good news for Labor in the Central Coast seat of Gosford as Liesl Tesch and widened the party’s margin in what had been the state’s most precarious seat with a 14 per cent swing. Labor MP Kathy Smith, who retired due to ill health earlier this year, beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in the 2015 Gosford election by only 203 votes. NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley said Ms Berejiklian should take responsibility for the major swings against the Liberals, which he said were more than 25 per cent in some polling booths. “In November the voters in three seats said the Government should change – it changed Premier but it didn’t change direction. Today voters in three different seats told the Government again it needs to change direction – it is time for Ms Berejiklian to start listening," Mr Foley said. He praised Ms Tesch and said she had fought a strong campaign. “This is a great victory for the Central Coast. Liesl is a fighter. She has been a success at everything she has attempted in life and I know she will be a great representative for the people of the Central Coast when she takes up her position in the State Parliament.” [post_title] => Relief for Berejiklian in state by-elections despite serious swings [post_excerpt] => Labor keeps Gosford, increases margin. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => relief-berejiklian-state-elections-despite-serious-swings-government [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-11 11:03:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 01:03:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26875 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26847 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-07 10:22:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-07 00:22:17 [post_content] => If the bookies are right, Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan could cause a huge upset in tomorrow’s (Saturday) North Shore by-election and topple the Liberals right where it hurts: in its leafy Sydney heartland. As the contest hots up in former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s North Shore seat, online bookmaker Sportsbet.com.au has revealed that a flurry of late bets on Ms Corrigan’s chances have made the Libs look wobbly in a seat they hold by a 30.4 per cent margin. Will Byrne from Sportsbet.com.au said there was strong support for Ms Corrigan, whose odds had shortened significantly in the run-up to the election from $4.00 into $2.50, suggesting that Saturday’s state by-election will be a close run thing. “The Liberals looked safe in North Shore but there’s been some money in the past few days to suggest the race is not run there yet,” Mr Byrne said. The North Shore electorate takes in the local government areas of Mosman and North Sydney and both councils have stridently resisted the state government’s attempts to merge them with their neighbours. Ms Corrigan is a former president of anti-forced council amalgamation community group Save Our Councils and she will be hoping the community’s rebellious sentiment continues to the ballot box. Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan But all is not lost for Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson, a former president of the NSW Liberal Women's Council, and she is still odds on to win at $1.50. Ms Wilson came under fire earlier this week when Fairfax published a story rubbishing her claims that she had lived in the lower North Shore electorate – in Neutral Bay, Waverton and Wollstonecraft - for more than a decade. Electoral records showed she had lived in several addresses outside the electorate at various points during five of those twelve years. Ms Wilson later apologised, calling it an ‘unintentional error’. She was also criticised for claiming that the first ever vote she cast was for John Howard in Bennelong in 2001. Fairfax countered her claim by saying she lived in Marrickville, in the Grayndler electorate, at the time and could not have done so. She later admitted she had made a mistake. But whether this controversy is serious enough to cruel Ms Wilson’s chances is another matter. North Shore has been considered a very safe blue ribbon Liberal seat since 1991, although it has fallen to independents in the past, most notably to Independent North Sydney Mayor Ted Mack. Interestingly, it is not a two horse race. In fact, the Greens have outpolled Labor to come second in the last three state elections. However, Sportsbet has Greens candidate Justin Alick at $34, with a Donald Trump-style shock needed for a payout. Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Sportsbet will be hoping it makes a better fist of predicting the North Shore result than it did when Donald Trump scored a shock victory in the US election in November last year when the company reportedly paid out $11 million to 25,000 punters who picked Trump for POTUS. This weekend also sees two other NSW by-elections, former NSW Premier Mike Baird’s seat of Manly and Gosford, which was vacated by Labor MP Kathy Smith when she retired due to ill health earlier this year. The bookies have both seats as clear wins: one for Labor and one for the Liberals. Manly is tipped to go to the Liberals ($1.10) and Gosford to Labor ($1.05), despite Gosford being the state’s most marginal seat and held by Labor by only 0.2 per cent. Ms Smith narrowly beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in 2015 by only 203 votes. Gosford is another seat where council mergers could affect the result and the forced amalgamation between Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils could tip the balance against the Liberals. Labor’s candidate for Gosford is Liesl Tesch, an Australian wheelchair basketball player and sailor, while the Liberals are fielding organ donation campaigner and office manager Jilly Pilon. What are the odds? North Shore by-election $1.50 Liberal $2.50 Independent (Carolyn Corrigan) $16 Independent (Ian Mutton) $16 Independent (Harry Fine) $34 Green $51 Animal Justice Party $51 Voluntary Euthanasia $101 Christian Democrats Gosford by-election $1.05 Labor $8.50 Liberal $16 Shooters, Fishers and Farmers $51 Animal Justice Party $51 Christian Democrats $101 Green Manly by-election $1.10 Liberal $7.50 Independent (Ron Delezio) $9.00 Independent (Kathryn Ridge) $11 Green $21 Independent (running for One Nation) $21 Independent (John Cook) $21 Independent (Haris Jackman) $26 Independent (Brian Clare) $26 Independent (Victor Waterson) $51 Voluntary Euthanasia (Kerry Bromson) $51 Animal Justice (Ellie Robertson) $51 Christian Democrats $51 Independent (James Mathison) [post_title] => Bookies shorten odds for independent to win North Shore by-election [post_excerpt] => Will the Libs topple in leafy la-la land? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bookies-shorten-odds-independent-win-north-shore-election [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-12 08:41:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 22:41:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26847 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26317 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-22 15:39:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-22 04:39:55 [post_content] => Will the Liberals seize victory in Mike Baird's seat of Manly and Jillian Skinner's North Shore? Pic: Facebook. Council anti-merger campaigners have vowed to inflict pain on the NSW Government in three upcoming by-elections, after North Shore MP and former Health Minister Jillian Skinner finally resigned officially this week. Ms Skinner tendered her resignation to Speaker Shelley Hancock late on Monday, apparently after failing to score her beloved Health portfolio in NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s first Cabinet reshuffle at the end of January. The NSW Electoral Commission will now set a date for three by-elections: Ms Skinner’s North Shore seat, Manly and Gosford. Manly was former NSW Premier Mike Baird’s seat and Labor MP Kathy Jackson recently quit her Gosford seat for health reasons. All three seats have been flashpoints for local council forced merger tensions but it is debatable whether Manly and North Shore – both strong Liberal seats – will really slip from the party’s grasp. However, the Orange by-election result in November, when Shooters Farmers and Fishers candidate Philip Donato seized the rock solid Nationals seat, will no doubt still be painfully fresh in NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian’s mind. Tom Sherlock from anti-merger community group Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) said council mergers were likely to have an influence on by-election results. “I’ve seen some reports that say the Liberals will be massacred but I wouldn’t go quite that far. There are some people who will always vote Liberal,” Mr Sherlock said. “My hope is that there will be some really quality debate about what communities want and what the alternatives are [to mergers].” He said SOCC would be making sure candidate forums occurred and the group would be asking the candidates questions at forums. The group is encouraging voters to put the Liberals last in protest over forced amalgamations. Ms Skinner’s North Shore state electorate, which covers Lane Cove, Mosman and North Sydney, is overwhelmingly Liberal territory but council mergers here have been some of the most fiercely contested. The NSW government said this month that it will still push ahead with Sydney mergers, despite halting regional mergers, and this includes one between Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils and another between Lane Cove, Hunters Hill and Ryde Councils, subject to the outcome of court cases. The North Shore seat has a history of independents throughout the eighties and it is possible that a credible independent candidate could take the fight to the Liberals. Mr Sherlock said Ms Skinner said she opposed local council amalgamations but ‘she never spoke out’ and that she ‘basically let the community down in a very big way’. The Liberals could get a nasty surprise come election time, which is likely to be in late March or early April. He said: “The Liberals have taken the North Shore for granted and they might get a big surprise. In that way it’s very similar to Orange. Orange was taken for granted by the Nationals. They brought in a candidate from outside the area and assumed people would vote National.” Meanwhile, Manly could also give the Liberals a fright if there is a backlash against the newly created Northern Beaches Council. Manly voters have a history of voting for independent candidates and focusing on local issues and personalities. Independents took the seat in all four elections between 1991 and 2003. Mr Sherlock said that Pittwater residents in particular were angry over the loss of their council but he said that the majority of the electorate may still back the Liberals. Warringah residents were more sanguine about council mergers because the former Warringah Council had a dominant role in the new council and some residents had wanted Manly Mayor Jean Hay deposed, said Mr Sherlock. Manly residents might be more worried about other issues, such as the Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link. But it is Gosford, one of state’s most marginal seats, where and the forced merger between Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils could tip the balance against the Liberals. Labor MP Kathy Smith narrowly beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in 2015 by only 203 votes. It is here where council mergers could be the difference between success or failure for the Libs. A spokesperson for the NSW Electoral Commission said the Commission was still waiting for the government to issue the writs for the by-elections adding that ‘there is no legislated timeframe for when a by-election has to occur’. [post_title] => NSW council anti-merger campaigners plot revenge after Skinner's official resignation [post_excerpt] => Third by-election triggered. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-council-anti-merger-campaigners-plot-revenge-skinner-officially-resigns [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-24 11:21:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-24 00:21:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26317 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26265 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-17 10:19:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-16 23:19:05 [post_content] => Council mergers: A tale of two Premiers NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision on Tuesday to dump six regional council mergers and push ahead with Sydney metropolitan mergers concludes another chapter in what has been a terribly managed process. Forcibly merging local councils was never going to be easy but former NSW Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole set in motion a sequence of events that further tarnished the public’s view of politicians, irritated councils and angered councillors, all while swallowing a huge amount of time, effort and money. The words dog’s and breakfast spring to mind. “It’s a well-earned epithet in this case,” says Professor Graham Sansom, who led the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s (ILGRP) inquiry into NSW local government reform in 2013. “I think you can say with some fairness that pretty much everything they could get wrong they did get wrong,” says Prof Sansom. “The merger process has unquestionably been a disaster.” Council mergers are not inherently right or wrong – this is the fifth round of council mergers in NSW since the 1970s - but the way the government set about selling them to the public and its dealings with councils was chaotic, inconsistent and disrespectful. Devious even. In the meantime, other important local government reforms – like reviewing the rates system; encouraging better council co-operation around strategic planning and service delivery; and updating the Local Government Act were pushed into the background as mergers sparked all-out war. It seemed mergers were the only game in town. Articulating the merger message Mike Baird’s success in pushing through the poles and wires sell-off to fund that state’s new infrastructure was partly because he went into the 2015 state election saying he was going to do it and he outlined the benefits of doing so for ordinary Australians. Contrast this with the flimflammery surrounding council mergers: another extremely emotive policy area. The government downplayed the subject of council mergers before the 2015 State election, vaguely indicating it would proceed with voluntary mergers and saying that it might push others. It didn’t help that some government MPs, including Mr Toole, had signed petitions and spoken publicly against forced amalgamations in the recent past. Prof Sansom says the government should have been upfront and honest about what it wanted to do and clearly set out the benefits and objectives of wider local government reform. But the government’s narrow focus, in public at least, was on the savings it said mergers would deliver - $2 billion over 20 years – opening it up to furious disagreement from academics like University of New England’s Professor Brian Dollery at the Centre for Local Government. “By just carrying on constantly about saving a few million here and a few million there I think the government shot itself in the foot because cash savings are the hardest benefit to prove. The financial evidence base was weak,” Prof Sansom says. “And you don’t throw everything into that much turmoil for just one or two per cent savings on total government expenditure.” Instead, other community benefits should have been stressed, such as better quality services, improved metropolitan planning, more opportunities for regional development, stronger local governance, ‘tangible things that people care about’ says Sansom. The government could have spoken about giving councils more scope and more political clout at state and federal level, rather than bypassing them with new agencies like Urban Growth and the Greater Sydney Commission. “The state government is doing things that local government ought to be doing,” he says. Roberta Ryan, Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), agrees that the NSW government got hung up on the possible cost savings of mergers, without properly articulating the advantages of broader local government reforms. “It is important that other potential reforms are explored and progressed at the same time - amalgamation is only one tool - and the NSW Inquiry outlined 60 plus other recommendations, some of which are being progress as well, so it is useful not to have the argument just focus on this one aspect,” Prof Ryan says. She says the emphasis on savings alone did not help the government’s case. “The evidence is that rates rise to the higher value and services levels also rise from the lower level to the higher level following amalgamation - so this further reduces the potential for cost savings,” says Prof Ryan. “There may well be long-run efficiencies and higher capacity for local government in the long run which can be beneficial - so the evidence of cost savings needs to be considered as part of short term and longer term arguments.” Prof Ryan says people are ‘generally 50:50’ about mergers but their perspectives can shift. People in regional and rural areas are more concerned about the negative impact of mergers, she says. 2015-2016 UTS research, Why Local Government Matters, showed resistance to mergers dropped markedly when the public interest benefits of mergers were spelt out. Providing the research to back it up and showing evidence of good process was also critical. “In the metro areas - the government has a good story to tell - it needs to get out and run the arguments - locality by locality - giving people good processes - access to evidence of the potential benefits - and explain their rationale for undertaking these reforms,” she says. Producing the evidence and sharing it was also necessary when selling mergers to the public. “This evidence then becomes part of the public debate that keeps everyone informed and prevents the exchange of ignorance on both sides - the NSW government has invested substantially in gathering this evidence - but it would benefit from communicating it more to the affected communities.” Baird et al got themselves in a pickle because the evidence for cost saving was weak and they’d made mergers all about saving money. The NSW Government was not overly forthcoming about supplying the evidence either. The KPMG report, that it says backs up its merger case, is yet to be released in its entirety. The government’s over-reliance on savings to make its case also led to jarring inconsistencies during the Fit for the Future process when some councils that were strong financially were forced to merge, while other strugglers were left to stand alone. It left the government open to charges of political opportunism and deepened public cynicism with the process. Prof Sansom says: “You’ve got to be able to explain what your strategy is and why you’re doing it and you’ve got to be consistent from one place to another. If you treat areas for no good reason differently people lose faith,” he says. Listening to ratepayers, allaying fears The government failed to listen to residents’ concerns or to come up with a plan to do anything about them, as well as not communicating a consistent merger message. The UTS survey found people were most worried about loss of local representation from creating larger councils. This came up repeatedly during merger debates but the NSW government ignored it. Instead it held hasty public hearings, sacked councillors, appointed administrators and delayed elections for newly merged councils until September 2017. Prof Sansom says Mr Baird could have considered other ideas, such as having Community Boards at ward level – as happened after the New Zealand council mergers. Larger, merged councils could also have had more councillors and wards, at least as a transition measure to reassure people that effective local representation would be maintained. “There’s this obsession with reducing the number of councillors. A notion that councillors get in the way and it’s going to be better if you have fewer of them,” he says. “The government leapt into mergers without having had that conversation about how to deal with people’s concerns about local representation.” He says: “It’s basic human psychology. You want to try to think of ways of sweetening the pill.” He argues that keeping councillors on during the transition period and appointing a transition manager would also have been the sensible thing to do, as happened with the 2008 Queensland mergers. “Instead: [the government said] we’re going to issue a proclamation and everybody is going to disappear overnight. To me, it’s hard to conceive of a process more likely to get people’s backs up than that.” An independent body and an independent process The ILGRP recommended in its 2013 Revitalising Local Government report that the merger process should be managed by a reconstituted, independent Boundaries Commission – with no current or former state politicians or councillors sitting on it - to increase the public’s faith in the decision making process. The Commission would also periodically review local government boundaries. In fact, says Prof Ryan, residents should also be involved in setting boundaries around ‘communities of interest’. This can involve looking at key factors like how people access services, schools and shopping; commuting patterns and demographic projections, combined with extensive, independent community consultation. “Otherwise the boundaries are not accepted by the community and there are political and administrative impacts for many years to come,” she says. Prof Sansom says the Panel warned the government about taking matters into its own hands in its report. “I’m more than happy to remind your readers that the ILGRP was very definitely of the view that the current legislation and process embodied in it was not going to do the job.” Another key recommendation by the ILGRP was to reduce the direct involvement of the Local Government Minister in the merger process. Local Government NSW describes the Minister as having “unfettered decision-making power” in its 2015 report, Amalgamations: To Merge or Not to Merge? Professor Sansom agrees that there is too much power vested in one person. “The problem with the Local Government Minister’s role in NSW is that it’s all powerful at both ends of the process. “You can’t get anything considered without the minister’s ticking it in the first place and you can’t get anything implemented without the minister ticking it again and having the right to tinker with the recommendations made by the Boundaries Commission. “It just means that the whole process was politicised from go to woe.” Professor Sansom says he cannot understand why politicians would want to place themselves at the centre of such a fraught process. “If you want to overcome the inevitable angst around amalgamations you have got to convince people from day one that you’re fair dinkum about it. “Being transparent and honest, being serious about exploring all the options, not just picking a few arbitrary mergers here and there. Taking councils and communities into your confidence with evidence.” The government wrote the merger proposals submitted to the Boundaries Commission and the Minister had the final say on whether mergers should or should not proceed. Prof Ryan sums it up: “If it is seen as a process of political opportunism by governments to strengthen their own political fortunes it then becomes difficult.” Checklist for state governments pursuing future council mergers
- Be clear and honest about your intentions from the start
- Back them up with sufficient evidence and share this evidence
- Engage closely with communities around what the benefits are to them
- Listen to and act on residents’ concerns
- Be consistent with your reasoning and apply it evenly and fairly
- Build independence into the process, including drawing boundaries, engaging with communities and assessing proposals
Councils hit backLocal Government NSW (LGNSW), the peak representative body for councils in the state, is suspicious of the bid to parachute-in financial controllers as the Minister sees fit, cautioning some of the state government’s financial assessment methods simply lack credibility. “Many of these moves seem designed to establish new avenues for central oversight and control, rather than recognising that local government is an autonomous, elected sphere of government,” said LGNSW President Keith Rhoades. “There needs to be agreed parameters around the Government appointing a financial controller, and objective measures of "poorly performing" or "high financial sustainability risk" need to be established. Lack of specificity could allow the Government to apply the same discredited methods used to declare many NSW councils "not fit for the future," Cllr Rhoades said. City of Sydney Councillor Ed Mandla, a Liberal, also had reservations as the the efficacy of the new laws. "Surely the best oversight for council books is the ballot box," Cllr Mandla told Government News. [quote]"The real problem for for Councillors is if they have a problem with the GM (general manager) they have to tell the mayor and if they have a problem with the mayor they have to tell the GM — what if they are in cahoots?"[/quote]
Questionable TimingThe latest laws are the second major tranche of legislation to hit this week, with another bill dealing with the donations and the pecuniary interests of councillors – the Local Government and Elections Legislation Amendment Integrity Bill – introduced on Budget night. The timing of the new legislation prompted Labor Opposition Leader Luke Foley to accuse Mr Toole and Premier Baird of trying to sneak through the new laws and of reneging on a promise to introduce limits on donations, especially from property developers. “Mr Baird has broken a clear and unequivocal commitment to introduce spending and donation caps for council elections,” Mr Foley said. [quote]“Caps on donations are not much use without limits on election spending. Predatory interests will be able to spend as much as they like to capture control of a local council.”[/quote] Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose said while it was still too early to give a definitive assessment of the latest laws, people needed to remember that decisions at amalgamated councils – including ones that could flow from the new laws –were being made by government appointed administrators rather than councillors answerable to electors until September 2017. Mr Primrose also questioned whether the Baird Government was really committed to ensuring integrity in council decisions given Budget cuts meted out to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that had persistently uncovered graft and dodgy decisions. “The Premier who is behind this bill is also responsible for slashing staff at ICAC – one of the most important institutions that that maintains integrity in local government,” Mr Primrose told Parliament on Wednesday. Referencing State Budget papers, Mr Primrose said ICAC’s “corruption prevention presentations will drop from 160 to 100” and that the average time to deal with complaints would rise from 30 days to 42 days. "So much for promoting integrity measures,” Mr Primrose said.
Massive Audit Office WorkloadWhile the new legislation is yet to pass, a clear intention of the new laws is to remove the ability of councillors to appoint their own auditors and hand oversight power to the directly Auditor General. [quote]The changes mean that while the government will get a centralised and consistent view of local government finances, the Audit Office of NSW will need to compile literally hundreds of new council reports a year to perform its new duty.[/quote] A spokesperson for Mr Toole said changes brought NSW “into line with most other Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand and will provide greater consistency and certainty across the sector.” “It will also ensure that reliable financial information is available that can be used to assess councils’ performance and for benchmarking. Mr Toole’s Office also confirmed that the Auditor-General will have powers to “conduct sector-wide performance audits to identify trends and opportunities for improvement across the sector” in line with similar powers in relation to state agencies. The total cost of the audits – which are typically charged back to agencies – is still yet to be determined. A state public service source suggested that putting councils under the watch of the Auditor General was “unquestionably” the right move, but one that may not work in Macquarie Street’s favour if ministers relied on rubbery numbers. Premier Baird in February 2016 announced that Margaret Crawford, who has been Deputy Secretary at the state’s Department of Family and Community Services, would become the new Auditor General of NSW.
Key changes as flagged by the Minister for Local Government
- Appoint the Auditor-General as the auditor of all councils;
- clarify roles and responsibilities of councillors, mayors, administrators and general managers;
- introduce new guiding principles for local government;
- improve governance of councils and professional development for councillors;
- consolidate the ethical conduct obligations of councillors;
- establish the framework for strategic business planning and reporting; and
- streamline council administrative processes.
Double decker buses will soon become a common sight on Sydney’s streets once more after the New South Wales Government revealed it will commission a proper fleet of the high capacity vehicles to boost capacity on crowded runs as part of a $108 million service boost and refresh in the 2016-17 NSW Budget
Exact details on who will manufacture and how many of the new 80-seat beasts will be deployed are still to be finalised, but the firm commitment to reinstate double deckers into mainstream route service in Sydney cements major turnaround in public transport thinking 30-years after the last Leyland Atlantean made its from Wynyard to Avalon in May 1986.
While the Baird Government started trialling Bustech double deckers North-West T-Way at the end of August 2012, the pre-Budget essentially embeds the top deck vehicles as part of the city’s core fleet for the foreseeable future.
The announcement is also the second major public transport ‘back to the future’ flip for Transport for NSW after the commitment to reinstate light rail services (or heavy trams) in the city and eastern suburbs, with deployments in the West also highly likely to be commissioned.Heavy crowding and more demand than capacity during peak-hour services for Sydney buses has been a serious and persistent problem for at least the last decade, as urban renewal and residential infill push more commuters onto the bus system. The biggest headaches for authorities and commuters alike include passengers who are closer to a bus route destination often missing out on scheduled morning trips because vehicles are filled to capacity well before they get near their terminus. Efforts to deploy more, larger single decker and articulated or ‘bendy’ busses have also created knock-on effects as busses get stuck long queues to unload passengers on approaches to the city and other major centres. A big benefit of double decker buses is that even though they carry 65 per cent more passengers than regular buses – 130 people when completely full on seated and standing capacity – they only occupy the space of a single bus making it easier to cram more services into smaller areas and tighter streets. With major residential developments now replacing industrial real estate on the city fringe, authorities are looking to boost both capacity and frequency. “Thousands of Sydneysiders rely on bus travel every day to get from A to B and we know demand for services is continually increasing, particularly in growth centres in the North West and South West, as well as in inner city areas like Green Square,” said NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance.
“Since coming to office, the NSW Government has delivered more than 15,800 extra weekly public transport services for customers and today’s announcement is further proof that we’re committed to putting on even more where and when they’re needed most.
“This is all about staying ahead of the curve to ensure customers have sufficient levels of service well into the future.”For people that remember Sydney’s original double decker bus fleet, it’s actually more like replacing something many feel, like trams, should never have been taken away in the first place. Treasurer Gladys Berejiklian – who spearheaded many of the key public transit reforms when she held the Transport portfolio – said the upcoming NSW Budget would continue to fund more services and infrastructure. “These double decker buses have allowed us to deliver good customer outcomes and we are pleased to be rolling out more of them across Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said before cataloguing where new money was going to be spent. The Treasurer said that under the NSW Budget 2016-16 commitment, 12 new or extended routes will come online. They include a new cross suburban link between the Inner West and Lower North Shore, all night services seven days a week for Green Square and Zetland as well as Abbotsford, Five Dock and Rouse Hill on weekends. The addition of new all-night services has long been called for by groups representing essential services and the hospitality sector where the availability and cost of labour have been hit by the shortage of car spaces and a lack of alternative transport options. Fleet renewal and replacement is also a strong focus, with older non-air conditioned buses finally dropped from service in favour of climate controlled accessible (or ‘kneeling’) busses that allow wheelchair users to roll-on and roll-off regular services – an important addition given many older Sydney railway stations still don’t have lifts. Specifics for the 2016/17 Growth Bus Services Program Western Sydney (including Hills District and South West) More than 1,350 new weekly trips, including 5 new or extended routes.
- New route 605 (North Kellyville to Rouse Hill Town Centre)
- Extended route 751 (Marsden Park to Blacktown via Colebee)
- Extended route T72 (Blacktown to Rouse Hill Town Centre via Alex Avenue)
- Extended route T74 (Blacktown to Riverstone via Hambledon Road)
- Extended route 783 (Penrith to Jordan Springs)
- 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2)
- 610X/M61 (Rouse Hill and Castle Hill to City M2)
- 611 (Blacktown to Macquarie Park via M2)
- 615X (North Kellyville to City via M2)
- 619 (Rouse Hill to Macquarie Park via Kellyville and M2)
- 620X-621 (Castle Hill and Cherrybrook to Macquarie Park and City via M2)
- 700 (Blacktown to Parramatta via Prospect)
- 740 (Plumpton to Macquarie Park via M2)
- 841 (Narellan to Leppington)
- T65 (Rouse Hill to Parramatta via Westmead)
- T80 (Liverpool to Parramatta via Bonnyrigg)
- New route 530 (Burwood to Chatswood via Five Dock, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove)
- New route 985 (Miranda to Cronulla via Woolooware Shores)
- Various Northern Beaches routes between Mona Vale and the City
- 197 (Mona Vale to Macquarie Park via Terrey Hills)
- 270-274 (Frenchs Forest District to City)
- 343 (Kingsford to City)
- 370 (Leichhardt to Coogee)
- 433 (Balmain to Railway Square via Harold Park)
- 477 (Miranda to Rockdale via Sans Souci)
- 506 (Macquarie University and East Ryde to City via Hunters Hill)
- 518 (Macquarie University to City via Ryde)
- M20 (Zetland to Wynyard via Central Station)
- M41 (Burwood to Macquarie Park via Ryde)
- 301 (Zetland to City via Surry Hills) – seven days
- 438 (Abbotsford to City via Five Dock and Leichhardt) – Friday and Saturday only
- 607X (Rouse Hill to City via M2) – Friday and Saturday only
- New route 178 (Anambah to Rutherford)
- Extended routes 260 and 261 (Minmi and Fletcher to Jesmond and University)
- Extended route 40 (Gosford – Wyoming)
- Enhanced services on routes 67 and 68 between Terrigal and Gosford
- Enhanced services on route 33 between Gosford and Mangrove Mountain
- New route 75 (Tullimbar to Stockland Shellharbour)
- Extended route 32 (Dapto to Brooks Reach)
- Enhanced services on route 1 between Austinmer and Wollongong
- Enhanced services on routes 31-33 between Wollongong and Dapto District
- Enhanced services on route 34 between Warrawong and Wollongong
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