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Councils Show Scant Regard for Ratepayers

Councils Show Scant Regard for Ratepayers

Monday 18 Mar 2002 Gerry Eckhoff Press Releases -- Governance & Constitution

The extravagant 15 percent planned rates increase over the next three years in Christchurch will be nothing compared with the sorts of increases that will be seen around the country if the Government presses ahead with moves to grant local councils powers of general competence, ACT Local Government Spokesman Gerry Eckhoff said today.

"I would expect to see many other councils this year come out with excessive increases similar to those proposed in Christchurch. The average increase around the country last year was about four-and-a--half percent, a level which shows no regard at all for the ratepayers.

"It is patently wrong for councils to be increasing charges at double the rate of inflation and to me this demonstrates a lack of financial discipline - not to mention extravagance. I believe that councils should limit increases to the rate of inflation and no more.

"But what further concerns me is that the Minister Sandra Lee is rushing ahead with plans to grant the councils powers of general competence. At the moment councils can't do anything, or spend money on anything unless they can specifically point to a rule which lets them. The `powers of general competence' contained in the new Local Government bill will reverse this, meaning that the councils and their officials can make you do anything they want, or spend your money on any pet project - if YOU can't point to any rule which specifically says they can't.

"If people think rate rises of 15 percent over the next three years are bad, I say to them, wait till councils get the powers of general competence - you ain't seen nothing yet.

"Councils will inevitably get involved in all sorts of extra-curricular activities. I think Sandra Lee and friends will encourage councils to get involved in central government activities such as health, education and welfare.

"The Minister will use councils as a stealthy way of effectively increasing taxes. The Minister talks about `partnership' with the councils, but a true partnership is give and take - the Minister just wants to take.

"ACT says there needs to be less government, not more and lower taxes. This Government is taking us in completely the wrong direction," Gerry Eckhoff said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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