Under the Local Government Act 1993, council elections are held on the second Saturday in September every four years. By-elections are conducted periodically when a vacancy occurs in the civic office. Councils can choose to engage the NSW Electoral Commission (NSWEC) or a private electoral services provider to administer elections. All 128 local councils in NSW will hold general elections on 12 September 2020.
Review of local government election costs
On 7 February 2019 the NSW Government commissioned the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to review the cost of conducting local government elections across the State.
IPART was asked to recommend a costing methodology that minimised the financial burden on councils and ensured local government elections were conducted efficiently and cost effectively.
IPART released its draft report on 25 June 2019 for public consultation.
IPART submitted its final report to the Minister for Local Government on 30 August 2019.
On 18 September 2019, the Government released its response to the IPART report and announced it intended to fund the NSWEC’s core costs in relation to the administration of local government elections, thereby reducing councils’ election costs.
Under the new funding model, costs will be assigned as either direct or core costs and allocated to councils or the NSW Government accordingly. The funding model will see costs allocated on the following basis:
- Direct (or marginal) costs are the costs that would not be incurred if an election was not held. These will be recovered from councils on a direct allocation and per elector basis. These include election staffing, venues, ballot paper printing, council-specific advertising and voter information products.
- Core costs are defined as head office costs such as staff payroll, training, election security, project management, drafting of election procedures and policies, core IT system development and maintenance and ongoing voter roll maintenance. These are the costs the NSWEC must incur to maintain its capacity to conduct local government elections. The NSW Government will fund these core costs of $19.9 million.
The NSW Government’s funding contribution will result in an indicative weighted average cost per elector of $8.21, which will be passed onto councils, compared to a weighted average cost per elector of $12.72 if no Government contribution was provided.