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Local body candidates: stop and think

Local body candidates: stop and think

People thinking of standing for local councils should consider what ratepayers really want, says the Local Government Forum. Nominations open tomorrow for this year's local body elections. Forum Chairman Simon Carlaw says there's a tendency for many local body candidates to make loose promises , with the election process adding to the problem by encouraging bidding wars among rival candidates.

"How the grand plans are to be paid for all too often gets pushed to the background, with ratepayers getting a nasty shock once the bills fall due. Those contemplating standing for council should spare a thought for business ratepayers who pay 50% of rates nationwide and residential ratepayers on fixed incomes - the groups that bear the brunt of council adventures.

"Overall, local government rates have been rising at over twice the rate of inflation for the last ten years, and rose by over 10% in the year to March 2004. Ratepayers want value for their money in core council services, not ever-increasing rates to pay for expanding bureaucracies and grandiose schemes that can all too often turn out to be white elephants.

"Another issue is a growing tendency for councils to go into business in competition with existing commercial enterprises, often subsidised at ratepayers' expense.

"Closer to election time the Local Government Forum will be encouraging ratepayers to vote for candidates who'll keep councils focused on their core business and keep a lid on rates rises, but for now we want to let prospective candidates know that we'll be taking issue with over-the-top election promises.

"We also encourage people with business experience and expertise to make themselves available for election. The positive reaction to this year's Hot Council awards showed clearly that ratepayers want more restraint by local bodies - candidates should take heed."

The Local Government Forum comprises farming, forestry and business organisations affected by local government decisions: Business NZ, Federated Farmers of NZ, NZ Business Roundtable, NZ Forest Owners Association, NZ Retailers Association. The Local Government Forum administers the 'Hot Councils' Awards, honouring councils that keep spending under control and promote local democracy. The results of Hot Councils 2004 are on:

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