NSW councils facing soaring local government election costs have welcomed the State Government’s call for the Auditor General to review funding arrangements of the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC).
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Linda Scott said she hoped the review would help explain why election costs had almost doubled since 2017.
“Sustained advocacy by LGNSW prompted a one-off $19.9 million State Government grant to the NSWEC for the 2020 elections – a move designed to ensure councils would only be asked to pay direct election costs,” she said.
“Yet NSW councils are now receiving heavily inflated quotes from the NSWEC for these very same direct costs.
“For example, Cobar, Leeton, Oberon and Snowy Valleys councils have all received quotes that are more than double the cost of their previous election.
“For Dungog, Temora and Walgett the increase is greater than 75 per cent.
“Meanwhile, Canterbury-Bankstown’s increase is more than $350,000 and Central Coast Council’s increase is greater than $540,000.
Cr Scott said the price hike came at a time when councils were already dealing with the task of helping communities recover from the worst droughts and fires on record.
The NSWEC has blamed increased staffing costs, venue expenses, the costs of call centres and the printing of ballot papers for its dramatic price hikes.
“For example, the NSWEC signed an agreement with the Department of Education that increases venue rentals anywhere from a whopping 80 per cent to 330 per cent, depending on the size of the venue,” Cr Scott said.
“We call on the government to ensure that other State agency fee increases are waived for council elections in recognition of the generous treatment the State Government already receives from councils for use of public parks and sports grounds.
“Local democracy should be seen as a public good rather than a revenue raising opportunity.
“We know that the findings of this audit investigation will not flow through in time for the 2020 local government elections, so we strongly urge the State Government to act to urgently reduce the costs of council elections in line with its September commitment.