Last Friday the Office of Local Government (OLG) officially announced that NSW council elections were being pushedback to 4 September 2021.
The NSW Local Government Association (LGNSW) argues that the decision “brings certainty for local communities and allows councils more time to prepare while dealing with other urgent issues.”
LGNSW President Linda Scott welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement, which she argued “will bring certainty for councils, and hoped the extended period would allow time to address the rapidly rising cost of local elections borne by local communities.”
“Council elections are vital to local democracy and the State Government decision to delay them gives councils more time to prepare while dealing with the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and COVID 19,” she said.
“Administratively, council elections take up to 12 months to organise and can absorb considerable administrative resources. The 2020 council elections were set to be the biggest single public event on the NSW calendar”.
“Now that the Government has confirmed the dates for next year, councils can work with certainty and plan effectively while dealing with the unprecedented challenges currently facing local communities.”
Cr Scott said while the Government’s election announcement was welcome, councils rejected any State Government suggestions of enforcing a universal postal voting system for local government elections.
“Councils support postal voting as an option, as well as optional online voting. But they do not support a universal, one-size-fits-all approach that may disadvantage some members of their communities from voting,” she said.
Cr Scott said postponing elections to 2021 provided LGNSW with an opportunity to work with the State Government and the Minister for Local Government on the key issue of local elections, which had skyrocketed over the past three years.
“Councils have received cost estimates from the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) for local elections that have increased by as much as 100 per cent compared to just three years ago,” she said.
“According to the NSWEC, these cost hikes are a result of rising staffing, venue and ballot paper printing costs.
“Not only are the increases unreasonably high, they come at a time when councils can least afford them, and the people who will end up paying for it are the residents of councils that have to pull money from infrastructure and services to pay the bill”.
“It’s money that could be used on vital needs such as drought and bushfire recovery.”
“LGNSW want to work with the NSW Government to ensure election costs don’t increase by more than the rate cap limit, which is 2.6 per cent.
“One way this could happen is by ensuring schools and other election venues don’t overcharge, especially since public schools enjoy subsidised use of council facilities such as sporting complexes.”
Cr Scott said LGNSW had written to the Premier seeking to work with the Government to develop a sensible, long-term funding program that would put the NSWEC on a stable economic footing without councils having to carry the can