Government announces public inquiry into council
The NSW Government has announced a public inquiry into Central Coast Council to investigate its financial management and ability to serve the local community.
Minister for Local Government Ms Shelley Hancock said a public inquiry would provide an independent, open, and transparent process to help improve the council's performance and sustainability.
"The performance of Central Coast Council, particularly concerning financial management, has been of great concern to the local community," Ms Hancock said.
"On behalf of all Central Coast ratepayers, I want to see Council performing in the best interest of the community.
"This public inquiry will help get to the bottom of the issues which have impacted its performance, resulting in my suspension of councillors and appointment of an interim Administrator.
"Any member of the public with concerns about the council can now raise them directly with the commissioner of the public inquiry."
Ms Hancock said she had appointed Ms Roslyn McCulloch as commissioner to undertake the inquiry.
"Ms McCulloch has three decades of experience in local government and planning law and conducted the 2019 public inquiry into Balranald Shire Council.
"At the conclusion of the inquiry, the commissioner will present a report to the Minister.
"The commissioner may make recommendations having regard to the findings of the inquiry, including issuing a Performance Improvement Order or dismissing Council."
Ms Hancock said the decision to hold a public inquiry also means that the local government election scheduled for the Central Coast in September would now need to be postponed until late 2022.
"My decision to order a public inquiry aims to give the community the best possible chance to restore confidence in its council," Ms Hancock said.
"As such, I have formed the view that it is in the public interest for all Central Coast councillors to remain suspended during the public inquiry process."
Council was first suspended in October last year with interim administrator Mr Dick Persson appointed to provide independent governance to address widespread financial, reputational and organisational issues.
Central Coast Parliamentary Secretary Mr Adam Crouch has welcomed the appointment of Ms McCulloch as independent commissioner of the public inquiry.
"Ms McCulloch's experience in local government and planning law spans 30 years, and by all accounts, is a perfect fit for the job.
"The public inquiry's terms of reference are very broad and enable the commissioner to investigate council's financial situation as well as its ability to properly represent and serve our community.
"The public inquiry will also consist of public hearings where community members, as well as current and former council staff, can provide evidence to the commissioner.
"Establishing a public inquiry is the only way to keep the councillors suspended and I thank the Local Government Minister for making this important decision."
Media releases, 26 Apr 2021
Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government
Adam Crouch, Central Coast Parliamentary Secretary