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CVC election costs on the rise

Geoff Helisma|

As the September 12 date for local government elections in NSW looms, NSW Labor has revealed that there will be a “steep rise in costs for communities who employ the NSW Electoral Commission (EC) to run their local government election”.

NSW Labor obtained the relevant documents through the Government Information Public Access Act (GIPA).

Clarence Valley Council (CVC), which decided to use the NSW EC to conduct its election at the September 2019 meeting, will pay $382,862, a 41 per cent increase on the $272,000 CVC paid in September 2016 – and $62,098 more than the $320,764 reported to councillors in September (a 19.36 per cent increase).

In its Review of Local Government Election Costs, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) recommended that it should not cost electors anymore than what was paid for the 2016 local government elections.

“We recommend that the increase in each council’s bill per elector since 2016-17 be capped at 0 per cent,” the IPART wrote.

“This would mean that the net cost to councils of undertaking full elections would only increase with: inflation; [and/or] the rate of growth in each council’s electoral roll.”

In its response, the NSW Government wrote that its “funding contribution will result in an indicative weighted average cost per elector of $8.21”.

There were 39,070 electors in the Clarence Valley LGA in 2016.

Assuming the number of electors remains constant, the cost per elector in the valley will be $9.80 at this year’s election.

In September last year, councillors declined a tender from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) because the NSW Government had indicated it would “fund the NSW EC’s core costs”.

The council has not released AEC’s tender price to the public, which is marked as a confidential attachment in the September CVC meeting minutes.

Other figures released by NSW Labor indicate that CVC was at the lower end of the scale regarding the election increases.

“The rise in costs that will be incurred by rural and regional councils will have a significant impact on those communities – particularly those smaller areas that have to beg for every measly dollar,” shadow minister for local government Greg Warren said in a media release.

Some “rural and regional communities [will be] slugged with bills 120 per cent higher – or in Coolamon Shire’s case, 386 per cent”.

The report to the September CVC meeting noted: “The available budget [for the election] … will stand at $300,000 by 2020/2021.

“The full cost of administering the election is not yet known, and Council may be required to vary the 2020/2021 contribution accordingly.”

A CVC spokesperson was not available for comment when the Independent called.