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Auckland Ratepayers deserve relief

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Auckland, September 20, 2016

John Palino

Every Candidate claims they will reduce costs and spending but none will reduce the burden on people accept me! Why is that?

Ratepayers in Auckland have faced massive rates increases forced on them by a wasteful council that believes it knows how to spend ratepayers’ money better than ratepayers know how to spend it themselves. Since the formation of the Auckland Council rates have risen from an initial increase of 2.9% pa to last year’s unprecedented 9.9% pa. Many ratepayers have had increases far in excess of these levels.

Even these huge rates increases have been insufficient to fund council’s reckless spending. In the last five years Council debt/liabilities have increased by approximately $5 billion.

This means that the Auckland Council in five years has accumulated more debt/liabilities than the combined accumulated debt of all of its predecessors over the previous 100 years.

Rates and Debt increases have been matched by a massive increase in spending. Council has simply increased rates and borrowings rather than curbing spending or seeking efficiencies. This huge increase has largely been the result of poor quality and unnecessary spending on non-core activities, personal pet projects and huge cost blowouts.

As it stands, Auckland Council’s budget is significantly outside the norms of New Zealand local government. For example, staff salary spending (including consultants) is approximately 27% of all expenditures while the historical average had been closer to 20%.

Auckland Council’s discretionary spending on non-core areas is currently running at 26% of total spending. Many other Councils’ spending on non-core areas is often less than half this percentage.

Soaring debt

Debt levels have soared to approximately $20,000 per ratepayer. Council staff numbers rose by over 2000 from a 2011 total of 9,300 to stand at around 11,380 in 2015. This total excludes many contracted and consulting staff.

I want to make it clear I have had some very positive experiences with very helpful council staff. These people have helped me and my businesses comply with consenting conditions and have been a pleasure to work with. My concern is not with staff in essential areas, it is the cost of staff in non-essential roles that are undertaking tasks that are not Auckland Council’s responsibility.

The waste and inefficiencies of present Council operations mean that the Council, following the 2016 election will have a wide scope to reduce rates. Finding savings to allow a 10% rates reduction across three years is very achievable.

Significant savings

Savings leading to rate reductions will come from a combination of savings including:

o Efficiencies promised from the amalgamation

o Proper bidding processes and intelligent controls over contractor spending

o Reduction of non-core and wasteful spending

o Reduced spending on discretionary activities

o Payroll costs down from 27% of operating expenditures to a level closer to the historic average of New Zealand councils.

If elected I will institute a full review of council spending with cost savings passed on to ratepayers and redirected to essential ‘core’ spending.

This policy is so important that I will be dedicating 25% of the Mayor’s office budget to seeking cost savings and efficiency gains. I will also make this a Key Performance Indicator for the Council CEO, to ensure that all council staff understand that rates reductions is a key platform of my administration.

My Pledge to reduce Rates

1. Introduce a budget that will reduce rates by 10% over the first term of a Palino Mayoralty

2. Immediate review of all council spending, with cost savings to be passed on to ratepayers by way of a rate reduction or by way of debt reduction if savings higher than 10% can be achieved.

3. Spend 25% of the Mayor’s Office budget on reducing spending on a permanent basis.

4. Issue a quarterly report to ratepayers showing how much my administration has been able to save them.

John Palino is a candidate for Auckland Mayoralty.

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