UTS Professor Graham Sansom has been named as the Chair of a newly-established Local Government Review Panel that will examine the financial sustainability, governance structures and boundaries of local government.
The three-person panel, which was announced by Local Government Minister Don Page, will investigate ways to strengthen the role of local councils within the government system.
Professor Sansom, who heads up the UTS Centre for Local Government and Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, which is also based at UTS, has more than 35 years experience in local government issues. He believes that it's important for local governments to be viewed as respected partners within the Australian political system with the capacity to make real contributions to the communities they serve.
"To achieve this, local governments need to demonstrate they have the skills, the knowledge, the ideas and the innovation to play a stronger role in the Australian federal system and in improving the lives of Australians," Professor Sansom said.
The panel will address five main themes set out by the NSW Minister for Local Government. They include the ability to deliver efficient and effective services and infrastructure, the ability to support the current and future needs of local communities and the need for the financial sustainability of each local government area.
"There are many issues we'll need to look at within each of the five themes, but no doubt we’ll be spending a lot time investigating the financial pressures that councils face," Professor Sansom said.
"Councils have different financial structures and requirements depending on their size, their location and the needs of the community they're serving.
"So we've got to come up with a range of possible solutions that cover the varied needs of different sorts of councils in different parts of the state. We need a package of options so that councils can tailor solutions to the needs of their particular local area. ‘One size fits all’ is not the right approach."
For communities, strengthened local governments can provide a range of benefits.
"If local government is more robust and more effective, then that's going to improve the services that people get, the way their local areas are planned and managed and the kind of facilities that are provided," Professor Sansom said.
"I think if local government is working well, it improves people's sense of place and community wellbeing. So hopefully the panel's work will help bring real benefits to people and places right across NSW."
The panel is expected to report back to the Minister within 12-14 months.