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Business leaders encourage voice of business to be heard in local council elections

Release Date: 4/07/2012

The NSW Business Chamber and the Sydney Business Chamber are encouraging all eligible business ratepayers in NSW’s 152 local councils to enrol to vote and have their voices counted in the local government elections set for 8 September 2012.
The Chambers are providing a guide to assist non-resident rate paying businesses to complete the enrolment forms from their local councils to be registered to vote.

There is a standard guide for all councils exclusiving the City of Sydney. If you are registering your business in the City of Sydney there are two forms depending on your status:
The NSW Business Chamber and the Sydney Business Chamber have both enrolled in their respective local councils to vote in the local government elections.
“It’s time for businesses, which are the backbone of local communities, to have their say on how their councils are run,” said Stephen Cartwright, CEO of the NSW Business Chamber.
“The NSW Business Chamber and the Sydney Business Chamber have both enrolled in our respective local councils to have our say in local government decisions and we are encouraging eligible businesses across the state to do the same.
“The Local Government Act allows a person who operates a business in one council but lives in another to vote in both of those councils’ elections. Many don’t exercise that right, however, because the enrolment system is designed to disenfranchise them – business ratepayers have to enrol each and every time before a local government election.
Mr Cartwright said that unlike residential voters whose enrolment is automatically renewed (unless they notify that they have moved electorates), the current non-resident ratepayer voting rules require re-application at each and every local government election.
“This red tape disenfranchises the business community who are usually too time poor to tackle this administrative headache.”
“The NSW Business Chamber is providing a free web guide to help business operators complete their enrolment forms. Businesses will still need to contact their local council to finalise their enrolment however as each council prepares its own enrolment application form. Councils should be displaying these forms in a prominent place on their website to make it as easy as possible for eligible non-resident businesses to find them.”
Patricia Forsythe, Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber said the number of non-resident or business sector votes in the City of Sydney elections has dropped from 4,912 in 1999 to 396 in 2008, compared to over 89,000 residential voters. 

“Most estimates of the number of business people eligible to vote as non-residents in the City of Sydney are around 20,000 people - this unfair administrative burden means only 2% of business people are getting a say in how the City of Sydney Council operates.
“The heart of City of Sydney Council area is the Sydney Central Business District, and yet the antiquated rules make it challenging for business to be an ongoing and active participant in our local democracy.”
“The City of Melbourne and international cities such as the City of London provide an automatic re-enrolment of non-residential ratepayers before each election. It’s now time that businesses in Sydney enjoyed the same basic right.
Mrs Forsythe said the Chambers had written to the Local Government Minister urging a change to the system to make it easier for businesses to enrol to vote.
“While we wait for the Minister to take action on this issue, we are assisting business operators to have their voices heard.
“I would encourage the Minister to support stronger democracy by making it easier for business people to enrol and remain automatically enrolled in local government elections.”
Applications for enrolment must be submitted by 30 July 2012.

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