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Timing of Auditor General’s report on local govt questioned

7 December 2012

Timing of Auditor General’s report on local government questioned

The Public Service Association is asking why a key report on local government was not made available during the parliamentary debate on the controversial Local Government Amendment Bill.

The Auditor General’s report on matters arising from the 2012-22 local authority long-term plans was presented to parliament yesterday - just a week after the controversial Local Government Act Amendment Bill was passed.

The government claimed the legislation, which gives the government the power to intervene in local decision-making, was necessary to control soaring council spending and debt, along with unreasonable rate rises.

However the Auditor General’s report indicates that councils are not in crisis. It says that local authorities are planning to live within their means, are not raising rates to unreasonable levels, and stay within the rules of fiscal policy that governments should borrow only to invest. It also states that any levels of debt are generally fit for purpose rather than imprudent.

PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott says the report provides further evidence that the premise, on which the government based the legislation, was flawed.

“We don’t know who is responsible for the timing of such reports, but it’s disappointing that it wasn’t available to MPs as they considered and debated such a significant piece of legislation, particularly given the final vote last week was so close,” she says.

“The report might also have added weight during the select committee process in which MPs were deadlocked on the issues and as a result the legislation returned to the House with virtually no change.

“Unfortunately councils and communities are now faced with an ill-conceived law which they didn’t ask for, was opposed by the overwhelming majority of select committee submitters, and which, as the Auditor General’s report helps to highlight, was pushed through by the government on the back of an argument which had no real foundation,” Brenda Pilott says.

ENDS

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