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Fit for the Future is a reform package recently released by the NSW Government. The Fit for the Future package is intended to assist Council to respond to the recommendations within The Final Report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel(External link) concerning the future of local government in NSW. Under the Fit for the Future package Council is required to submit a proposal by 30 June 2015 about how it will be responding to the Independent Panel’s recommendation.
What did the Independent Panel recommend for Hawkesbury City Council?
Hawkesbury City Council is one of a small number (9 of 152) of ‘no change’ councils - i.e. councils for which a merger or other amalgamation option has not been identified. Hawkesbury Council, along with the Blue Mountains and Wollondilly Councils, owes its ‘no change’ status to its location on the metropolitan fringe of Sydney. Section 13.7 of the Final Report of the Independent Panel notes that these three councils provide important ‘green spaces’ for metropolitan Sydney and as such should be retained in their current form ‘to manage these important spaces’. Our neighbouring councils of Blacktown, Penrith and The Hills have also been identified as ‘no change’ councils.
What was the response of the NSW Government to the Independent Panel’s recommendation for the Hawkesbury?
The NSW Government has responded to the Independent Panel’s Report and has accepted the Panel’s recommendation for the Hawkesbury. However, under the Fit for the Future process, Council will have to demonstrate that it has the ‘scale and capacity’ to remain sustainable over the long term. The NSW Government will be monitoring Council’s future performance against a number of Fit for the Future benchmarks.
What was Council’s response to the Independent Panel’s recommendation for the Hawkesbury?
Council has accepted the Independent Panel’s recommendation. The Panel’s recommendation will provide the starting point for our Fit for the Future submission. Council has formally indicated it will not support any proposal for the adjustment of its current boundaries or the merger of our Local Government Area with any adjoining council area.
What benchmarks does Council need to meet to be Fit for the Future?
The current position of every council in NSW has been assessed against seven Fit for the Future benchmarks. The benchmarks measure a council’s performance across three broad categories - sustainability; service and infrastructure management; and efficiency. For each category there are a number of financial benchmarks which measure operating performance and revenue; debt; the cost of renewing and maintaining assets; and operating costs over time.
What does Council need to do to be Fit for the Future?
Council is required to lodge its Fit for the Future Proposal by 30 June 2015 using the Template and Guidelines issued by the Office of Local Government. Within its proposal, Council must identify the strategies it will be pursuing to improve its performance against the Fit for the Future benchmarks. There is no specific deadline by which Council must achieve these benchmarks – the proposal has to simply demonstrate that Council will improve its performance against these benchmarks so that over time it is in the best position to achieve them. Council’s proposal will be assessed by an Expert Panel which will be established by the NSW Government. If the Expert Panel accepts Council’s proposal, Council can then proceed to implement its Fit for the Future Improvement Action Plan and may be eligible for assistance to do this.