Maitland councillor Philip Penfold said merger indecision means a raw deal for ratepayers

Mayor Cr Peter Blackmore.
Mayor Cr Peter Blackmore.

Maitland and Dungog ratepayers are getting a raw deal and some councillors may be tempted to jump ship, because of the State Government's inaction on a merger between the two councils, Maitland councillor Philip Penfold has said.

Cr Philip Penfold.

Cr Philip Penfold.

Cr Penfold told Fairfax Media this week that councillors and council management are becoming more frustrated with the state shirking its responsibilities and dragging out a merger outcome.

He said the time has come for a new look elected council.

Cr Penfold said the current councils were elected in September 2012 and had reached the end of their expected tenure in September last year.

"Council management are unsure of future direction, councillors have been there longer than voters elected them for and some sitting councillors aimed to retire last year and that has been dragged out," Cr Penfold said.

"We are overstaying the community's expectations by no fault of our own and I understand that some of my colleagues had intentions of making other plans beyond that perhaps not recontesting," Cr Penfold said.

"Councillors are doing the right thing staying on until a decision is made but some had plans to travel. They want to get on with their lives but they are required to wait.

"I guess technically they could pull up stumpe though and we run the risk that if these mergers drag on any longer they may not be able to hold out."

Cr Penfold said council management is trying to determine where the city is heading but can't plan in advance because they don't know if Maitland will be a stand alone council or become one with Dungog.

"Things are, in some cases, put on backburner or delayed until get clearer direction of who and what we are and what towns and villages make up Maitland.

"It's not good morale at the moment and we go into each meeting wondering if it is going to be the last meeting of this council."

Maitland Mayor Cr Peter Blackmore said council was still working well and getting on with the city’s business.

“It is certainly the case that the decision on council mergers has become very drawn out. This is in large part due to the court actions taken by some Sydney councils and unfortunately, that affects us here in the Hunter,” Cr Blackmore said.

“For Maitland however, it has been and continues to be business as usual. Our future direction continues to be guided by Maitland +10, our current 10 year community strategic plan, and we are pushing on with the projects and services that underpin that plan.

“Whilst there is uncertainty among the councillors, we are continuing to meet and get on with the job.

“If Cr Penfold wishes to pursue other interests including travel due to any uncertainty regarding possible merger announcements, I would not oppose him making these arrangements,” the mayor said.

Cr Penfold confirmed his intention to contest the mayoralty with a team of independent candidates at the next election. 

Fairfax Media reported last week that NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley said a proposed merger between Maitland and Dungog councils should be scrapped because neither community wants an amalgamation.

His comments came after unconfirmed reports across various media outlets on Thursday morning that new Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her Cabinet were considering scrapping mergers for those councils that still had a question mark over their future.


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