The forced merger of Gosford and Wyong Councils into the Central Coast Council has been a financial disaster for the people of the Central Coast for which the Coalition Government must take responsibility says the Central Coast Greens.
With Central Coast Council on the edge of financial meltdown and facing potential suspension by the State Government, the Greens, who are not currently on the council, are calling on the Coalition government to apologise to the residents of the Central Coast and deliver immediate substantial financial support.
The Greens know that the Coalition government had over a quarter of a billion dollars to hand out in politicised council grants in 2018/19 and are calling for a fraction of this amount to be used to support our Central Coast Council now.
Analysis of the financial reports originating from the transition period of the former Gosford and Wyong Councils shows the new Central Coast Councils’ net financial position deteriorating from a combined net surplus of over $95 million from before the amalgamation to a post-merger deficit now reported at $89 million.
Central Coast Council had already paid $49 million for merger costs to mid-2020, (1) which dwarfs the $10 million received by the council from the state government to pay for the merger. There are funds to help out; it’s just a question of political will.
The financial woes facing the Central Coast Council, while the most serious following the Coalition’s forced amalgamation policy, are far from isolated. The great majority of forcibly merged councils have struggled with the costs, inefficiencies and lack of state government assistance to address the real merger costs and are facing chronic deficits. (2)
Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“This is a financial disaster cooked up the Coalition government when it ignored locals’ wishes and forced through the incredibly costly merger of Wyong and Gosford Councils.
“What we need now is for the State Coalition government to say sorry and commit to an immediate financial support package for the Central Coast. They made this mess, and they need to fix it rather than put more costs on long-suffering residents.
“The call for state assistance has only grown given the disturbing evidence about the quarter of a billion dollars in council grants that were funnelled out by the Coalition in 2019/20. Only a fraction of that level of funding is needed to rescue the Central Coast Council.”
Central Coast Greens spokesperson and Greens candidate, Budgewoi Ward Sue Wynn said:
“Nothing the Coalition Government said would occur with the amalgamated Council has transpired – no economies of scale, efficiencies and savings; no better representation; no increased community input. In fact, the reverse is true.
“Local residents must not be made to pay for the financial failure of the state government’s decision to force a council merger on the Central Coast. And we reject calls to sell off COSS and public land and to sack staff.
“An independent forensic auditor should be appointed, and our current Councillors maintained until we all know the extent of the issues and the possible solutions.”
The Greens have reconfirmed their commitment to work for a better future for the Central Coast based on transparent strategies to create a sustainable, democratic and responsive local government. We recognise that residents want assurance that basic services will be delivered. Council workers must be protected, COSS and Public Reserves not sold off.
(2) The following councils facing extreme post-merger financial hardship include Inner West Council ($15 million deficit), Mid Coast Council ($14.4 million deficit) Snowy Valleys ($1.6 million deficit), Canterbury Bankstown ($18 million deficit) and Cootamundra Gundagai Council ($5.7 million deficit). All of these deficits were experienced before the financial impacts of Covid-19 with deficits worsening since then, even with these councils substantially reducing expenditure.