Big political parties taking over local government at the expense of local issues, councillor warns

Big political parties are infiltrating local government and pushing larger agendas to the detriment of local issues, an outgoing Gold Coast councillor has warned.

Chris Robbins has announced she will not contest the southern Gold Coast division she has represented for the past 11 years at the next council poll in March.

Cr Robbins said the Gold Coast, as the nation's second-largest local authority, was clearly in the major political parties' sights.

"If they can get their hands on the control of a local council and its budget and they can realise their party political philosophies through that council," she said.

What you want is people who are going to vote on local issues, considering their local importance

Chris Robbins, Gold Coast councillor

"That's a big incentive for political parties to get involved."

The Gold Coast is classified as the only category eight area by the Queensland Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.

The classification takes in account population, demographics, the size of the area, and the geography and environment.

A category eight mayor is paid $237,597 a year, deputy mayor $164,785 and councillors $141,791, the highest amounts in the country.

Difficult for independent candidates, given costs involved

Cr Robbins said it was understandably difficult for independent mayoral candidates to win when campaigns in an area the size of the Gold Coast could cost up to $250,000 to run.

"That's a lot of money for someone to raise, and so if you have that support from a political party in terms of fundraising and things like that, that makes it a lot easier."

"If it comes out of their pocket, that's a big contribution, and if it comes from various vested interests ... there's issues with that."

I won't miss the political intrigue ... But I'll miss the people; I'll miss representing the people

Chris Robbins, Gold Coast councillor

Cr Robbins said many councillors already had strong political affiliations.

"What's important is you don't have a council that's overtly running as a ticketed council that is going to deliver party political outcomes for the city," she said.

"What you want is people who are going to vote on local issues, considering their local importance."

She hopes the trend will not spell an end to council independence, and is urging voters to vote on local issues.

Meanwhile, Cr Robbins is getting ready for life after council.

"I won't miss the political intrigue," she said with a laugh.

"But I'll miss the people; I'll miss representing the people."

The Gold Coast local government elections will be on Saturday, March 19.

Source: ABC News

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