A date for the next Central Coast Council election has been set for September 4, 2021.
It was announced by the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, on Friday, June 12.
The elections were due to be held in September, 2020, but a decision was made to postpone them for 12 months because of COVID-19 restrictions.
An order was published in June 12’s Government Gazette formally postponing the election for 12 months and a second order extending the postponement and setting the new election date would be published shortly in the Government Gazette, the Minister said.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Linda Scott, welcomed the government’s announcement which, she said, would bring certainty for councils and hoped the extended period would allow time to address the rapidly rising cost of local elections borne by local communities.
“Council elections are vital to local democracy and the State Government decision to delay them gives councils more time to prepare while dealing with the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and COVID0-19,” she said.
Cr Scott said that while the government’s election announcement was welcome, councils rejected any State Government suggestions of enforcing a universal postal voting system for local government elections.
“Councils support postal voting as an option, as well as optional online voting, but they do not support a universal, one size fits all approach that might disadvantage some members of the community from voting,” she said.
Cr Scot said postponing elections to 2021 provided LGNSW with an opportunity to work with the State Government and the Minister on the key issue of local election costs.
“Administratively, council elections take up to 12 months to organise and can absorb considerable administrative resources,” she said.
“Councils have received cost estimates from the NSW Electoral Commission for local elections that have increased by as much as 100 percent compared to just three years ago.
“According to the Commission, these cost hikes are a result of rising staffing, venue and ballot paper printing costs.
“Not only are the increases unreasonably high, they come at a time when councils can least afford them, and the people who will end up paying for it are the residents of councils that have to pull money from infrastructure and services to pay the bill.
“It’s money that could be used on vital needs such as drought and bushfire recovery.
“LGNSW wants to work with the NSW Government to ensure that election costs don’t increase by more than the rate cap limit, which is 2.6 percent.
“One way this could happen is by ensuring schools and other election venues don’t
overcharge, especially since public schools enjoy subsidised use of council facilities such as sporting complexes.”
Cr Scott said LGNSW had written to NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, seeking to work with the government to develop a sensible, long-term funding program which would put the Electoral Commission on a stable economic footing without councils having to carry the can.
Central Coast Council was invited to comment but did not respond in time for publication.
Source: Media release, Jun 12 Local Government NSW