Newly appointed administrator Richard Colley spruiks City of Canterbury Bankstown

11-07-2018 by admin

Premier Mike Baird, Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole, and Deputy Premier Troy Grant, announce the amalgamations last Thursday. Photo: Janie BarrettThe new head of what is now the state’s most populous council area has spruiked the benefits of mergers, as Premier Mike Baird continues to be dogged by accusations that he has savaged local democracy.

Four days after the Premier sacked nearly 400 councillors from more than 40 councils, the administrator appointed to run the new City of Canterbury Bankstown says the merger process has gone smoothly and services have improved for residents.

Mr Richard Colley, a former general manager of Bankstown Council and past administrator of the sacked Wollongong Council, said residents could now return library books, pay their rates and submit development applications in either of the former council areas.

“This council of Canterbury Bankstown is basically the same size as Tasmania and so the implementation of bringing these two organisations together is going to take a fair bit of time,” Mr Colley said at a press conference, held in front of banners promoting the “new city” of more than 350,000 people, on Monday.

“At the moment I was going to say it’s business as usual but in fact already after three days I would suggest to you that there are improvements.”

Mr Colley said he had no plans to put the brakes on development in the area.

“We will assess any development application with the same rigour that both councils have always done and based on the staff recommendations I will be making the final recommendation/resolution,” he said.

Mr Colley’s comments come as the state government cops criticism for sacking councillors and appointing unelected administrators to run 19 new councils until the next local government elections in September 2017. The administrators’ role will be the same as that of elected councillors.

New councils will have an implementation council, probably made up of the mayors and deputy mayors, and local representative committees will also be established with former councillors as likely members.

The former mayor of Bankstown, Khal Asfour, and of Canterbury, Brian Robson, respectively labelled the sacking of the councils as a “sad day for democracy” and a sign that “democracy is now dead in NSW”.

Premier Baird has brushed off the claims saying “people have us here to make decisions” and that the amalgamations are in the long-term interests of every rate-payer in the state.

The government also plans to force nine more council mergers pending the outcome of legal action.

Mr Colley said the merger process had been unproblematic and it was “business as usual” for the maintenance of council roads, footpaths, parks and sporting fields.

“I’m probably the most apolitical person you can find,” he said.

Many of the dismissed councillors across the state have been instructed to this week return their laptops, phones and other council property, while others have been given the option of purchasing the equipment.

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