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Council congratulated for finances though stuck in the past

Hamilton Council congratulated for finances though stuck in the past

Though the Employers and Manufacturers Association has congratulated the Hamilton Council for outperforming its financial targets and getting its finances back into shape, it also said the Council seems to think it is still operating under the former Local Government Act.

At today’s Council hearings on its Annual Plan EMA’s Peter Atkinson advised the council it has a rare opportunity to change over its rating system to one based on capital value.

“Hamilton Council’s goal to balance its books by 2017 looks achievable, and we warmly congratulate the council on this,” Peter Atkinson told the Council hearings today.

“Saving $15 million this year and keeping debt down is a creditable achievement,” he said.

“But the 3.8 per cent increase in rates proposed is too high.

“While we strongly support the Council’s plan to review its rating system there appears no willingness to remove the business differential.

“Such a change would result in a fairer and more efficient rating system by aligning rates more closely with the benefits that ratepayers receive, and also with how other councils finance their activities.

“In not giving this due consideration the Council seems to be operating under the old Local Government Act.

“The role of local government used to be to achieve the ‘social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of the community’ but these words were replaced in the 2012 Act by the words: ‘to meet the current and future needs of communities for good-quality local infrastructure, local public services, and performance of regulatory functions in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses.’

“Using rates differentials previously was said to be to help achieve a fair and equitable distribution in the general rate between categories of land having regard to matters of ‘social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of the community,’ but this is no longer the basis for setting rates.

“Since this is the case, the existing Hamilton business rates differential policy must also be called into question. A re-think is required.

“EMA also supports Council introducing a Uniform Annual General Charge in the interests of its residents and ratepayers.

“Council’s response in the Plan to its ‘unsustainable’ debt levels which we support, includes the following:
· Return to surplus by 2017

· Limit debt levels to about the same level for the next 10 years
· Cut operating budgets by $11.7 million and reduce staff numbers
· Increase some user charges to bring in an extra $3.5 million per year
· Sell some assets and review others for possible sale.

“In our prescription these steps should be followed by moves phased over several years including:
· A capital value system of rating
· Reduced business differentials
· Introducing a Uniform Annual General Charge
· Water by metering
· Sewerage by volumetric measurement.”


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