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Auckland Local Govt Staff Submission

PSA MEDIA RELEASE

April 22, 2008

Auckland Local Govt Staff Submission To The Royal Commission

Two thousand four hundred local government staff in Auckland have told the Royal Commission On Auckland Governance they want local government that delivers high-quality, value-for-money services for Aucklanders and decent work and decent workplaces for them.

They belong to the PSA and work at Auckland’s eight local authorities and council-controlled organisations. Their views on the future of Auckland’s local government are expressed in the PSA’s submission forwarded to the commission today.

“This submission is from the people who work hard to provide essential services that Aucklanders use and rely on every day,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff. “They acknowledge that Aucklanders want to see improvement in their local government and are not opposed to change.”

“But they say any change must deliver high-quality, value-for-money services for Aucklanders and provide them with decent jobs in high performing workplaces” says Richard Wagstaff.

The PSA does not support the super-city proposal promoted last year. It would be expensive to establish and would not strengthen democracy and community engagement. It cost an estimated $400 million to create a Toronto mega city in 1998. The predicted savings have never materialised and social services have been cut.

“Our submission notes that Auckland’s councils already cover far larger populations than the average council in Europe, where local government appears to work well,” says Richard Wagstaff.
The average New Zealand council covers 56,000 people. In Auckland the current average is 171,500. In Sweden it’s 31,300, the Netherlands 25,200 and Denmark 18,200.

“When it comes to council size, bigger does not mean better,” says Richard Wagstaff. ”It’s matter of ensuring councils are both financially viable and connnected to their citizens.”

The PSA has no firm view on the number of councils Auckland should have but we do advocate strengthening Auckland’s regional government. The Auckland Regional Council proposal of one integrated body, a Greater Auckland Authority, and some 30 community councils has a number of features that meet the principles the PSA believes should shape local government in Auckland.
These principles include:

- Safeguarding the democratic process and strengthening community engagement.
- Public and democratic ownership and control of public assets and public services.
- Service provision should, in principle, be retained by councils rather than outsourced to council-controlled organisations such as Watercare Services.

“The PSA also believes that any changes to Auckland’s local government must recognise that quality services require skilled staff,” says Richard Wagstaff. “This is vital because a Deloitte study shows councils are losing staff due to high workloads and because they can earn more in the private sector.”

The PSA submission says any restructuring of Auckland local government structures or services:

- Must maintain or improve working conditions for staff and should not involve net job losses.
- Must involve meaningful consultation with unions and their members from the outset.
- Should see any potential savings allocated to service improvement.
- Must involve robust, fair and equitable transition arrangements for staff. These should be based on the model used in recent council amalgamations in Queensland where staff were supported by a $14 million support package. This included a transitition committee with union representation for each new local authority. A key transition objective was to maximise job security for staff and assist in staff retention.

ENDS

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