LANDMARK research commissioned by the Property Council of Australia has revealed that council amalgamations could deliver more than $500 million to local communities across South Australia.
The Property Council of Australia commissioned public policy consulting firm ACIL Allen to undertake economic modelling around a reduction in statewide councils from 68 to 32. As part of this modelling, metropolitan council boundaries would be recast to create nine councils rather than the existing 19.
SA Executive Director of the Property Council Daniel Gannon said local government reform is a potential game changer for South Australia's local communities, but also for the state's economy.
"At a time when South Australia's policy-makers are exploring future opportunities like nuclear energy, we need to continue to be bold and examine the role of local government," Mr Gannon said.
"This report reveals that a reduction in councils from 68 to 32 would deliver savings to councils and the community of around $65 million per annum and result in a total benefit of $505 million.
"It also outlines that there will be fewer mayors, fewer councillors and fewer local government executives. However, it must be stressed that there would be no net reduction in non-executive staff as councils move to increase services across the board.
"What is now clear is that the benefits of recasting council boundaries substantially outweigh the costs.
"Any effort to implement local government reform will not be easy, but that doesn't mean we should ignore it.
"Recasting council boundaries needs to be considered to ensure every dollar of ratepayer money is wisely spent at a time when our state's economy is struggling.
"To encourage economic development, we need to ensure that our local tier of government is as efficient as possible. While this can be an emotive subject, it has to be in the policy mix."
Mr Gannon said that while there would be significant upfront costs in implementing any reforms, the benefits overwhelmingly outweigh the costs resulting in a benefit-cost ratio of 4.54.
The Property Council in July 2015 undertook research to determine the community's attitudes towards the number of Councils servicing SA, the level of support for mergers, the level of support for a review into their performance and the level of satisfaction with services.
According to the research:
- The majority of people living in metropolitan Adelaide (53%) are supportive of amalgamations.
- Among those who indicated that they were in favour of council mergers, the main reason was around cost effectiveness, named by 56% of those in support of amalgamations.
- 64% of respondents were in favour of a State Government performance review into councils, compared to just one quarter in opposition to this proposal.