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Money does not grow on trees – revisited.

 |  Elisabeth Resl  | 
TCDC’s response to a recent, very insightful article on the Council’s Long-Term Plan (LTP)process is living proof of the key points Mr. Rasmussen made.

Locked in their ivory tower mentality, the Council immediately jumps into defensive mode to, yet again, point out perceived ‘inaccuracies’ in this article by merely repeating what their ‘duties’ are under the Local Government Act 2002 (LGA). Nobody, including Mr Rasmussen, suggests that the Council would risk legal challenge by not adhering to their statutory duties. This is not the point.

A truly open-minded and transparent Council would have looked at the many substantial and constructive points that are discussed in this article.

1. Yes, the LTP’s ‘key priorities’ are vague and lofty and will serve as a meaningless (yet very flexible from the Council’s point of view) elastic band to underpin what should be hard financial decisions.

2. Contrary to TCDC’s Corporate Services and Finance Group Manager’s statement that, “we don’t see any other reasonable option but to increase rates and fees if we are to maintain our current services” rates do not necessarily have to increase. According to TCDC, “so much of what we do now is required by law, there is little scope for major reductions in our current services”.

A constructive way of conducting a consultation would be to list all anticipated Council services and their costs that fall under ‘statutory requirement’. Those services would be priority one. Core services (water/wastewater/roads/rubbish) are priority two; with, however, a very broad scope of actual ‘level of service’ that is offered for each category.

On the other hand, some staff and activity costs for ‘economic development’ and ‘communication’ could be cut back to focus expenses on core Council business.

3. Mr Rasmussen provides a very useful list of example questions that link services to corresponding costs. After all we are talking about ratepayers’ money, so it’s pointless to ask the community, “which services they think we could stop or reduce” when the ratepayers are left in the dark about how much money they would be saving.

Answers to similar fuzzy questions will give the Council diverse responses (according to ratepayers’ individual interests) so that they can pick and choose which of those best fit their policy intentions. All this would be well within the legal ambit of the LGA, but answers would not have been based on hard and available financial information.

Setting the right priorities (except priority one items) must be based on an informed decision made by those people who pay for these services and not by aspirational Council officers and elected members.

Real change could only happen if Council was prepared to genuinely listen to the people who pay their salaries and bills instead of hiding behind hollow lists of LGA prescribed ‘processes’.

The Mayor’s and Councillor’s’ recent unanimous disrespect for basic democratic principles when voting on the establishment of Māori wards does not bode well for the upcoming LTP process.

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