Council elections pushed back as COVID-19 worsens

Council elections pushed back to December

One local councillor has described the postponement of the Local Government elections to that of a prisoner waiting for parole.

Cr John Tramby has at times been known for his colourful analogies and he didn't disappoint when the Champion asked what he felt about receiving this news.

He said he felt for any councillors who were waiting to celebrate their retirement. "It would be much like a prisoner finding out he didn't make parole," he joked.

This is the second time the elections have been postponed due to COVID-19.

NSW Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock on Saturday confirmed the election date had been pushed back from September 4 to December 4 for all NSW councils except Central Coast Council, which was currently in the hands of an administrator.

Council elections had already been postponed 12 months from September 2020 due to the pandemic.

"It's not good," Cr Tramby said. "Will things be any better in three months? That's the problem.

Councillor John Tramby says the postponement of Local Government elections is not the right decision for regional NSW.

Councillor John Tramby says the postponement of Local Government elections is not the right decision for regional NSW.

"Then we move into the Christmas and New Year period. There's no absentee voting for Local Government so that means we're then looking at February being the next earliest opportunity.

"And that then effects the next council too," Cr Tramby said. "That council will only get to serve two years and nine months compared to the four years of a normal term.

"That affects that council's ability to get a handle on what's happening. It's not long enough."

Cr Tramby suggested regional NSW go to the polls while only the city areas affected are delayed. "They've done it before when areas have been flooded," he said.

Independent advocacy organisation Local Government NSW has urged the government to commit to holding "COVID safe" council elections before year's end.

"COVID safe local government elections must be held by the end of the year, to uphold democracy and ensure renewal," LGNSW President Linda Scott said.

"Public health and safety must always come first, but we do not want to reach a situation in which democracy delayed is democracy denied.

"This latest three-month deferral comes on top of an existing deferral of 12 months from September 2020, with no guarantee further delays won't be incurred.

"Delaying elections further is a risk to democracy."

Cr Scott said a significant number of existing councillors, who had already been asked to extend their term by 12 months, had already chosen not to stand for a further term.

"The need for local government leaders has never been greater, as communities and their local economies struggle with the impact caused by going into, out and back into lockdown again," she said.

"Regional NSW local governments are particularly eager for safe NSW elections to proceed, with many areas of NSW without a single COVID exposure.

"Why should the rest of NSW have to suffer because of COVID cases in Sydney?"

Cr Tramby said anybody who wished to retire could still do so at the earlier date. "If they want to exit early they are at liberty to do so."

Council will enter into a 'caretaker' role towards the end of the term which limits what they can and can't do. This has also now been pushed back to November.