Councils must now take up the challenges
19 November 2007
Statement from David Thornton
“Local councils must now take up the challenges from the recent Rates Inquiry report”.
This was the message NoMoreRates founder/organiser David Thornton gave to the Annual Local Government Finance Forum in Wellington last week.
Addressing this meeting of senior council finance officials, Mr Thornton told them that the recent Rates Inquiry report was a valuable documment as it focused attention on many of the issues and problems surrounding the whole rates issue.
Mr Thornton told the Forum that experienced council officials need to be well aware of the growing anger among ratepayers – an anger reflected in the results of elections to many local councils where rates protesters made significant gains.
Those gains produced major losses – especially those two Auckland Mayors who were held responsible for huge rate increases, and consequently no longer wear the chains of office.
“But the Independent Rates Inquiry did not deal with the real issue – that is the question of what local councils should and should not be doing. Although it pointed out that expenditure by local councils was becoming excessive.
“However the recently announced Royal Commission on Auckland Governance will provide a realistic opportunity to look at the role of councils within the varied communities which together comprise the Auckland Region”
David Thornton urged councils senior finance managers to analyse all the options put foreward in the Rates Inquiry report and put the results before their councils as soon as possible so that the the long-running annual battle between councils and ratepayers can move on to a conculsion which is fair to all residents and brings prudence to council expenditure.
He also urged council finance staff to look at a form of ‘poll tax’ or a per capita tax – even though the Rates Inquiry did not support such a tax.
David Thornton told the Forum “People tend to dismiss a poll tax because of the outcry in England when Margaret Thatcher introduced it. But the problem then was the way it was introduced – and the lack of care in providing support for those who could not afford to pay.
“But at least poll tax has the ability to spread the cost of local government more fairly across the whole community – rather than a tax solely on property owners under the present system”