LGSA calls for inquiry into election costs

By Staff Writer

Local government has called on the NSW Premier to undertake an urgent Parliamentary Inquiry into the management and cost of the 2008 local government elections.

The Local Government Association of New South Wales said that elections were poorly managed with long delays in delcarations.

President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Genia McCaffery, said that a large number of NSW councils were extremely disappointed with the way in which the 2008 local elections were conducted.

“Ratepayers have to fork out millions of extra dollars for this year’s elections and we’re still waiting to find out why,” she said.

“Councils are still providing us with numerous examples of how the elections were poorly managed in their local areas – from unsecure ballot boxes, to problems with sharing returning officers, and lengthy delays in voting declaration.

“One polling booth in Gosford closed for two hours because ballot papers ran out, some postal vote ballot papers were received after the elections, and many other voters faced long delays because polling booths were understaffed – and these are just the tip of the iceberg.

Cr McCaffery said that election costs had skyrocketed this year and in many instances services had declined without any explanation from the State Government.

“Government must be accountable to its constituents, and while the state rightly demands transparency from local government, it has yet to submit its own operations to that level of accountability.

“We hope Premier Rees fulfils his commitment to transparency and undertakes a Parliamentary Inquiry into the elections, which will not only make the NSW Electoral Commission accountable on the same level as Local Government, but also show ratepayers exactly how their money was spent.”

President of the Shires Association, Cr Bruce Miller said that the associations were currently preparing a submission to the Electoral Commissioner that details problems experienced by voters.

“We have spoken with our member councils and received feedback on issues experiences during the election,” he said.

“It’s also no secret that NSW councils are struggling financially, and it’s disappointing that an indication from the NSW Treasury under the previous Premier that councils under financial stress would be able to pay the costs over a two year period is not receiving support from the Department of Local Government and the Electoral Commissioner.

“A number of Councils with what we feel to be legitimate claims of such stress are having their applications denied by the Department.

“We’re already facing a $7.8 billion infrastructure backlog, so how can we justify paying such outrageous costs while we are forced to put essential services and infrastructure on the backburner?

“A Parliamentary Inquiry is the only way to ensure transparency to ratepayers.”

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