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Councils hit with huge cost blowout

THE cost of democracy has sky rocketed, with an independent review finding the 2008 local government elections will now cost ratepayers on the Coffs Coast more than $500,000.

The new costing means Coffs Harbour City Council's election bill is $332,800, Bellingen Shire's is $74,600 and Nambucca Shire Council will fork out $112,400 for the September 13 election.

In July 2007, estimates of this year's elections found the cost increased by a whopping $65,000 for Nambucca, $128,000 for Coffs Harbour and $30,000 for Bellingen compared with the 2004 elections.

However, the recently released Review of Local Government Election Pricing, by auditors Walter Turnbull, adds a further $33,400 to the Coffs Coast bill.

New South Wales Electoral Commissioner Colin Barry said the review removes 'hidden costs' and provides a budget that reflects the true cost of delivering professional electoral services to voters.

“The review also found that more than $7 million was not being recovered from local councils, and voters can now have every confidence that the NSWEC (New South Wales Electoral Commission) will continue to improve the transparency of local government elections,” Mr Barry said.

“This should put an end to claims of cost shifting.”

But the Local Government and Shires Association believe the Electoral Commission has 'missed the point'.

“Ratepayers are being forced to fork out millions to run the elections and precious funds required to provide services to communities will now have to be diverted to pay the costs,” Local Government Association president Cr Genia McCaffery said.

Shires Association president Cr Bruce Miller said there were questions about the nature of some of the costs.

“The costs have sky rocketed, with councils getting quotes several times more than the 2004 elections,” Cr Miller said.

“The State Government is trying to take NSW communities for a ride."



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