Council election costs: NSW Electoral Commission's estimates increase

COUNCIL election costs are soaring with the NSW Government accused of cost-shifting and ratepayers set to miss out on funds being spent in their town.

While the state government pays for core election costs, most councils choose to engage the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) to administer elections.

The NSWEC's proposed charges to administer next year's local government elections are substantially higher than the costs councils incurred for the 2016 election.

With all 128 councils across NSW to hold an election on September 12, 2020, mayors in the region say it is ratepayers who will foot the bill for the higher costs.

Weddin Shire Council has experienced the biggest increase, with costs jumping by 81.5 per cent - from $27,000 to $49,000.

The next highest increase was a 43.8 per cent jump for Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, from $73,000 to $105,000.

Hilltops costs will go up by 35.7 per cent (from $143,000 to $194,000), Cowra's will increase by 31.0 per cent ($87,000 to $114,000) and Forbes will jump by 27.6 per cent ($58,000 to $74,000).

While Parkes Shire Council had a 24.2 per cent increase, with costs to jump from $95,000 to $118,000.

It'll mean us not fixing up infrastructure or getting infrastructure ... the ratepayers will miss out.

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister

An Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) review of local government elections costs found that "the market for local government election services is currently a near-monopoly".

"This, and the very sharp increases in costs proposed by the NSWEC, highlights the need to review the efficiency of the NSWEC's proposed costs and to regulate prices, at least in the short-term," the review stated.

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister said he could not work out how the NSWEC had arrived at such an increased figure for election costs.

"It's unbelievable how much they can cost shift," he said of the NSW Government.

Cr McAlister said it would be the local residents who will miss out on things because of the increased charges to council.

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"You've got to work out where to take it [the extra funds needed] out of ... it'll mean us not fixing up infrastructure or getting infrastructure," he said. "The ratepayers will miss out."

Hilltops Council mayor Brian Ingram said the NSWEC's higher costs to administer next year's election would make it very difficult for council's budget.

"We need to take a look at what we can do ... if it's an extra $50,000 election cost then that's got to come from somewhere," he said.

Cr Ingram said he did not understand how the NSWEC could charge for polling booths when "the majority of them are council owned".

He said that Hilltops Council would not consider running the election rather than outsourcing it to the NSWEC.

"We've got a number of issues on our plate, the last thing we'd need is any more by running it," he said.

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This story Soaring election costs mean residents will lose out: Mayors first appeared on Cowra Guardian.