Radical shake-up of local councils is recommended

Cooma-Monaro Shire would be the regional centre of a new County Council including Snowy River and Bombala shire, under a host of changes being proposed by the Independent Local Government Review Panel.

The Panel's report, "Future Directions for NSW Local Government- Twenty Essential Steps", outlines a range of changes set to revolutionise local government across NSW.

Under the plan Bombala Shire Council would be amalgamated into Snowy River and Cooma Monaro. Rather than operate as a council, it would have a local board - a new type of elected, community-based local government unit with limited responsibilities delegated from a local council or County Council.

The report says that Bombala Shire is 'at risk' and would not be able to support a 'standard' local government in the medium- to-long-term with a declining population projected to be 2,000 by 2036.

A merger with Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro is the recommended option for Bombala.

Local Boards would have 5-7 elected members and would carry out functions delegated to them by an individual council or County Council. They could provide representation and some delegated service delivery at suburb or district level and ensure continued community identity.

Snowy River would continue to operate as a council within the Snowy-Monaro County Council under the plan.

As the regional centre of the County Council, Cooma Monaro would play a leadership role and offer technical support where required to other member councils.

According to the Local Government Review Panel it would host regionally significant public and private services, infrastructure and facilities that other local government areas rely upon for their continued sustainability and have significant resources at its disposal including a strong revenue base; the ability to undertake all its Integrated Planning and Reporting obligations; staff with high level strategic, professional and technical skills; the capacity to undertake high level economic and infrastructure projects.

Cooma-Monaro Shire mayor Dean Lynch said he supported the proposal and believes it could be implemented within the next three years, before the end of the council term.

"I'm in favour of making efficiencies, if it's going to make cost savings," he said.

"If we can demonstrate efficiencies in this I'm in favour of it.

"I believe it will be happening, as long as every shire has input and as long as we can get the right model."

Cr Lynch said certain issues would be addressed during the consultation process such as the financial pressure of absorbing a larger geographical area, without the rate base to support it.

"Those are things that have to be looked at and explored," he said.

The panel is now calling for submissions.

"At this stage, I believe there will be submissions from each of the three councils, a joint submission from the councils and one from SEROC (South East Regional Organisation of Councils)," Cr Lynch said.

n Editorial - see page 10

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