A proposal to slug ratepayers with additional costs of up to a million dollars for each council election must be rejected by the State Government, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) said today.
LGNSW President Linda Scott was responding to draft recommendations by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) that the NSW Electoral Commission be allowed to increase the amount charged to conduct an election by some 62%.
“Councils in NSW are supporting their communities through drought in our regions alongside unprecedented population growth in our cities,” Cr Scott said.
“For larger councils, this rise is equal to hundreds of thousands of dollars – in one case more than $1 million.
“IPART says increasing the amount charged by the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) to run council elections will save money for the taxpayer – however, the reality is communities will simply receive fewer government services and less critical infrastructure as prices rise.
“I’m looking forward to meeting with Premier Gladys Berejiklian this week to urge the Government to work collaboratively with councils on a recommendation for funding local government elections that are more in keeping with the public interest.”
Cr Scott said the proposed IPART model also introduced a gap between the cost for city and country voters.
“IPART’s proposal means small rural councils would pay an average of $14.37 per elector, while large metropolitan councils would only pay $9.54,” she said.
“Democracy is a fundamental public good and should not be more expensive for some ratepayers than others.”
IPART had been asked by the Government to look at the methodology used by the NSWEC to charge councils, “in order to minimise the financial burden on councils and ratepayers and ensure local government elections are conducted efficiently and cost effectively”.
“We welcomed the Government’s referral to IPART at the time, but local government is now disappointed to see recommendations that will increase the cost to communities of local government elections,” Cr Scott said.
“IPART is well aware that councils operate in a financially constrained environment: IPART itself sets the amount by which rates can be increased each year, and has acknowledged that local government also bears the burden of cost-shifting by state and federal governments.
“I’m positive we can work with the State Government to find a better way for councils and communities to ensure free, fair, transparent and affordable local government elections in 2020.”