The NSW Opposition is calling on the Baird Government to implement a key Parliamentary recommendation to introduce caps on political donations to local government, following a recommendation by a Parliamentary inquiry that is critical of the Fit for Future agenda.

An Upper House inquiry into the Baird Government’s local government agenda recommends mayors should be popularly elected, and caps imposed on donations to candidates for local government.

Earlier this year as part of its three-point plan to improve integrity in local government, Labor led the call for a cap on political donations, popular elections for mayors for four years, and a ban on property developers and real estate agents from holding office.

The bipartisan inquiry found that one of the key criteria for IPART’s assessment of councils - that of scale and capacity - was flawed because it was “ill-defined and difficult to objectively measure”. Scale and capacity was one of the main criterion under which most Sydney metropolitan councils were found “unfit”.

The inquiry also concluded that there was a “lack of empirical evidence” to support the Baird Government’s view that bigger councils do a better job of serving the community, stating: “Much of the available evidence appears not to support claims of cost savings and efficiency. The committee finds that the projected economic benefits of council amalgamations have been consistently overstated by the proponents of forced amalgamations.”

The inquiry also recommended there should be no forced amalgamations of councils unless they are bankrupt or otherwise unable to service their communities, stating that the benefits of amalgamation had been “overstated” and “inadequately explained”.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“If the Premier is serious about reforming local government he should legislate for caps on political donations in line with those that apply to state government. It is the right thing to do.”

“Popularly elected mayors for four years would end the horse trading between parties jockeying for power and give communities a real say on who serves them.”

“These are commonsense reforms that would go a long way to restoring the community’s trust in local government and Labor welcomes the fact that it has received the committee’s bipartisan support.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose

“Chairman Paul Green and the Christian Democrats should be commended for their leadership on this issue.”

“It sends a powerful message to the community when there’s such strong support keeping local government local.”

“The Government should now drop its threats to force councils to amalgamate and adopt a commonsense approach to local government.”