GUNNEDAH Shire Council's decision to run its own 2012 local government election has paid off literally.
Caretaker mayor Adam Marshall said the council had saved well in excess of $10,000 by choosing not to use the NSW Electoral Commission.
Gunnedah was one of only two councils in NSW to appoint its own independent local returning officer to conduct the election, while 12 others chose to use another private contractor.
The remaining 136 councils contracted the NSWEC.
Mr Marshall said by opting to conduct the election locally the results were known earlier and the costs were greatly reduced.
"While the final figures are still being tallied it looks as though we'll have saved well in excess of $10,000 by not using the NSW Electoral Commission," Mr Marshall said.
"In addition to the cost savings, with the election and counting conducted wholly locally, the results were finalised inside the timeframe of the 2008 election (run by the NSWEC) despite more candidates this time and having to recount the ballots after being close to a result."
Frustrated with the conduct and cost of the 2008 election, Gunnedah Shire Council made the bold decision last year to take up a new opportunity and conduct its own election.
"The outcome shows it was the correct decision and that our strong stance on locally-run elections has been vindicated," Mr Marshall said.
Following the widespread criticism of the NSWEC for high costs and less than satisfactory service in 2008, councils across NSW lobbied strongly for a change in legislation to enable them the ability to choose who would conduct their elections.
In response, the NSW government last year made the necessary amendments to the Local Government Act, essentially ending the NSWEC's monopoly on conducting all NSW elections.
Mr Marshall said council took its decision after considering a report from general manager Robert Campbell, which indicated while the NSWEC could conduct the election for about $66,000, a locally-run election would cost ratepayers $52,800, a saving of $13,200.
"We knew it was critical that the community had confidence in the integrity of the election process, with an independent returning officer and staff conducting an election in accordance with the legislation and the guidelines issued by the NSW government," he said.
"We achieved those objectives, delivered a speedy result and importantly the best possible value-for-money for our ratepayers and residents."
Mr Marshall said by "being bold" and standing by its belief there was a better way to run the elections, Gunnedah Shire Council had shown its colleagues they needn't feel intimidated by the NSWEC.
"Locally-run elections can deliver correct results on time and at a fraction of the cost," he said.
Mr Marshall congratulated returning officer Ian Horwood, his assistant Terry Curran and the entire polling and post-polling day team.
"Ian and his team worked hard and were incredibly thorough but above all they were utterly professional from start to finish. The fact that the election ran so smoothly and successfully is a credit to them," he said.