Life after amalgamation was the theme for a two-day Local Government NSW Conference held in Terrigal two weeks ago.
Mayor Ingram and I represented Hilltops council and joined with some 19 other councils which were amalgamated two years ago.
The conference was convened to discuss better ways to amalgamate councils in the future, to learn from mistakes made and to hear from all councils their positives and negatives pertaining to the experience.
The top concerns experienced by all councils were as follows:
- All reported high loss of qualified staff
- Difficulty attracting new qualified staff
- Administrators remained for too long - three-six months is ample.
- In future, restore democracy by installing new councillors ASAP after amalgamation.
I was interested to hear from those councils forced to amalgamate, in particular those who have been talking demerger.
Not one council mentioned demerger and while problems were encountered, all were reasonably happy with their council's progress to date.
Other topics discussed included the water problem and training for young staff for appropriate positions within councils, with a view to keeping the young in our council areas and providing them with long-term employment.
I left the conference feeling happy that Hilltops was doing as good as the best and better than the rest.
We have been dealt our share of bad cards, however it is not the cards that you are dealt.
Rather, it is how you play the cards that you are dealt, and in this regard Hilltops council is winning.