NSW councils have been let off the hook over the question of who should pay for local government elections, with the state providing a one-off injection of almost $20 million to help lower costs.
Councils were facing significant increases in what they would have to pay for running elections in 2020 following an recommendation by the independent pricing regulator earlier this year that would have increased council costs by 62 per cent.
As reported by Government News at the time, IPART said in its June 22 draft report that the increase would ensure that councils, rather than NSW taxpayers, paid for election services. But a furious local government sector said the increase would be a “huge hit” to councils.
Ms Hancock said the government had listened to councils.
“That’s why the Government will provide $19.9 million to fund the NSW Electoral Commission’s core costs for local government elections such as staff payroll, training, IT system development, and maintenance of the electoral roll,” she said on Wednesday.
Councils will remain responsible for direct costs including polling booth staff and venues and ballot paper printing.
Local Government NSW said the move would help restore transparency and fairness.
“We welcome the announcement that councils and their communities won’t be required to subsidise the operations of the NSWEC in 2020,” Local Government NSW president Linda Scott said.
“By identifying and separating direct and core costs in 2020 we will have true cost transparency, which is very important.”
But she indicated it wouldn’t be the end of the story and LGNSW would “work with the Minister to deliver a fair, transparent and sustainable long-term solution”.
Ms Hancock says the state government is also moving to make elections more efficient from 2020 by allowing electronic nominations and vote counting. It will also consult with councils to allow universal postal voting from 2024.
The state’s 128 local councils will hold general elections next September. Councils can choose to engage the NSW Electoral Commission or a private provider to administer them.
The state government ordered IPART to review of the cost of local government elections the beginning of the year.
In its final report released this week IPART said the new funding model means the average the cost per elector that will be shouldered by councils next year will be $8.21, compared to $12.72 without the state contribution.
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