Voter confidence costly
A CALL by Richmond Valley Councillor Charlie Cox to see a return to councils running their own elections has been shot down by the NSW Electoral Commission.
Electoral Commission spokesman Adrian Kerr said the community did not want councils running their own elections because they made too many mistakes when they ran them in the past.
Mr Kerr said voters had an expectation that elections should be independent of councils.
“There is no appetite in the community for councils to be in charge of electing their own,” he said.
Mr Kerr’s comments came after Cr Cox called for a return to council-run elections when it was
announced Richmond Valley’s March 14 by-election may cost as much as $100,000 – a cost which must be borne by the council.
Cr Cox wrote to NSW Local Government Minister Barbara Perry after he was approached by members of the public concerned about the cost of the by-election, to elect a replacement for the late Cr Ray
Jeffery, who died in a car accident at Evans Head last month.
“There is a lot of concern within local government circles about the cost of elections since they were taken over by the Electoral Commission. There is a feeling local government could do it at a much reduced cost and more effectively,” Cr Cox said.
Mr Kerr said until the September 2008 elections councils had been able to offset some elections costs by providing staff, amenities and resources. However, last year the Electoral Commission moved to a full cost recovery model.
“Councils now pay the full cost of the elections,” he said.
Mr Kerr was unable to say how much the March by-election wou-ld cost, but said elections were expensive to run. “Elections are run in a highly legalised way and we must make sure all the legislation is adhered to,” he said.
Mr Kerr said the benefit to voters of the Electoral Commission running elections was they were able to provide a consistent standard between all councils and all levels of government.
However, Cr Cox said councils could be trusted to run their own elections properly.
He said the Richmond Valley Council was responsible and a council of integrity. “We are professional,” he said.
Cr Cox said there was a strong feeling in many councils that things had been taken out of their hands and out of the hands of the residents.
Mayor Col Sullivan was unavailable for comment.