Central Coast Council in NSW has engaged a private consultancy to conduct a compulsory referendum into whether to cut the number of councillors.
Council administrator Rik Hart says Australian Election Company will conduct the referendum on whether to reduce the number of councillors from 15 to nine in September.
A reduction would result in Central Coast’s five wards being reduced to three, with new boundaries and each ward electing three councillors.
Council was suspended in October last year for financial mismanagement and a report released by the then administrator Dick Persson in December found losses of $232 million and $565 million worth of debt.
It is currently facing a public inquiry which means that state-wide local government elections scheduled for September will be postponed until late 2022 for Central Coast.
Too many councillors, not enough collaboration
In March, the former administrator Dick Persson said in looking at what had gone wrong with council he formed the “strong view that a major contributor was the 15-member council”.
“Fifteen councillors are too large a number if you want them to act collaboratively. While a smaller number provides no guarantee, nine people would increase chances significantly,” he said.
“Part of the councillors’ job is to act as a governing board over a very large business. This is the piece they messed up. Too often key actors played politics instead of acting in the interest of ratepayers.”
The NSW Electoral Commission was originally engaged to conduct the September 4 referendum but had since advised it was no longer in a position to provide the services “as costed” Mr Hart said.
Australian Election Company was able to conduct the referendum at “a slightly lower cost and a more favourable time frame.
Mr Hart said the electoral commission had also indicated it wouldn’t be able to conduct a referendum before next March, which was too close to a potential delayed Council election in September 2022.
“For these reasons, and to provide the Central Coast community the opportunity to have their say on this important issue, Australian Election Company Pty Limited will be engaged for the conduct of a Referendum on 4 September 2021, when local government elections are being conducted in NSW,” he said.
Voting in the referendum will be compulsory for Australian citizens over 18 in the local government area.
Australian Election Company operates Australia-wide and provides services managing parliamentary, public and private sector ballots and elections.
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