THE real agenda behind a proposed council merger between the Hunter’s two largest councils was for Lake Macquarie City Council to bail out the ailing Newcastle City Council, independent MP Greg Piper says.
Comments from Mr Piper, the member for Lake Macquarie, were backed by council statistics.
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Newcastle council spent $56 million more in operational expenses last year than Lake Macquarie council, documents show.
This was despite the Newcastle local government area having 41,000 fewer people than its southern neighbour.
Lake Macquarie council’s total employee costs were $72 million last year, compared with $90 million for Newcastle council.
The NSW government’s Independent Local Government Review Panel recently recommended amalgamation between Lake Macquarie and Newcastle.
The panel noted Newcastle faced “significant challenges”.
As reported last week, Lake Macquarie council vowed to “strongly resist” a merger.
Mr Piper said Lake Macquarie should not be coerced into an “ill-considered amalgamation”.
“The primary intent of the proposed amalgamation is to bail out an ailing council, most likely at the expense of another with a proven record of efficiency and fiscal responsibility,” he said.
The former Lake Macquarie mayor said the proposal “appears to be grounded in the often quoted but misguided belief that bigger is better”.
He said it showed a “disregard for the distinctive characteristics” of each area.
It was wrong to assume the adjoining areas would seamlessly create “a single metropolis”.
The panel recommended removing the Morisset district from Lake Macquarie and handing it to a merged Central Coast council.
Mr Piper said it was an “outrageous suggestion”.
“The people who live in Morisset and Cooranbong and on the nearby peninsula overwhelmingly regard themselves as part of the Lake Macquarie community.”