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Wellington City Council plans Budget Task force

Cr Andy Foster
Chair Strategy and Policy

15 February 2012

Wellington City Council plans Budget Task force

Wellington City Council is proposing the establishment of a budget taskforce as part of its Long Term Plan work this year.

Strategy and Policy Committee Chair, Cr Andy Foster says: “Most people in our economy are hurting to some degree and it’s really important that we demonstrate – to ourselves and to our community –that we are delivering best possible value for money.”

“By law councils all over the country will do their ten year budget, the Long Term Plan, this year. This is a really important opportunity to take a look at every activity of Council, to think about what we should be doing, what we’d like to do, and how we can do things more efficiently.”

He says, “It is very clear that there are real challenges this year for Council’s budgetary process. We face major cost challenges notably liability for leaky buildings, increasing investment in earthquake resilience, and we will need to replace large numbers of pipes laid shortly after the Second World War, which are coming to the end of their lives faster than we’d have hoped. General costs notably in construction and insurance are also rising faster than the rate of inflation.”

“All this is set against ratepayers not wanting rates to rise. I think that view has strengthened over the course of the global recession. We are constantly told that Council should ‘live within its means’. At a household level New Zealanders have backed off ‘putting it on the credit card’ and moved to net saving rather than borrowing, so it’s appropriate Council does this work.”

“Every year officers look for savings to offset new spending demands from councillors and the public. That only goes so far. The plan now is to have a few councillors working with officers, and with external advice, and to go through the budget in a degree of detail, and in a way that hasn’t been done in the recent past.”

“I would expect we will also be deliberately looking for suggestions – from councillors, staff, and from the public. There will inevitably be repetition of some people’s pet dislikes, but we don’t have a monopoly on good ideas and I’m confident there will be some gems that lead to doing things more efficiently.”

“I’m very pleased that there is a degree of willingness to do this work where perhaps in the past it wasn’t. “

The task force is proposed to be established this month and to work through the Long Term Plan process, and through until the end of the year. Terms of reference and membership will be discussed at Strategy and Policy Committee on 23 February.

“The other key issue for me is focussing on priorities,” says Cr Foster. “In past years most submitters on Council’s budget have just focussed on the one or two items of interest to them, in isolation of all other calls on the Council. I hope this year we will finally ask people to explicitly weigh up competing discretionary demands and, recognising that there is a limit to what Council can spend, prioritise between them. The key is deciding what will make the greatest difference to Wellington being a great place to live in, work in, visit and do business in.”

“More than ever before we have to demonstrate as best we can that we are investing in the right things, being appropriately frugal, and delivering value for money on behalf of our communities. We’ll be looking to see how they can help our short term 2015 and longer term ‘Towards 2040’ Strategies and contribute to improving our unique sense of place, our people, environment and economy.”

ENDS

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