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Council cannot rule out another staff blow-out

Council cannot rule out another staff blow-out

Auckland Councillor for Orakei, Cameron Brewer, says ratepayers should be very concerned council management will not rule out another budget blow-out when it comes to staff costs in the coming year.

His comments follow councillors signing off the 2014/15 Annual Report today where Mr Brewer raised concerns around escalating staff costs of nearly $200m over the past five years and in the same period the appointment of another 2,080 staff - taking council’s total headcount to 11,380.

“In recent years council’s huge wage and salary budget has blown out substantially. In 2014/15 the council budgeted $729m for total group staff costs but it came in at $792m – a blow-out of $63m. In the previous year the council budgeted $680m but it came in at $730m – a blow-out of $50m.

“We’ve budgeted $771m for the new 2015/16 financial year, but I doubt we’ll come within budget given we spent more last year and management can offer no assurances it won’t be exceeded again. What’s more given the current track I suspect Auckland Council’s total in-house staff costs will exceed a staggering $1 billion by 2024/25.

“The concern is not only the ongoing cost escalations, but the fact that staff numbers have grown by 258 over the past 12 months alone. The latest official excuse is that Auckland’s population is growing so must the council.

“Well let’s not forget that New Zealand’s population has grown by half a million over the past 10 years yet our public sector has mostly shrunk while customer satisfaction has risen overall. At the same time the number of dairy farmer has risen while Fonterra staff numbers are falling. 2010’s municipal amalgamation promised economies of scale and doing ‘more stuff with less staff’ but the our Labour Mayor has completely squandered that opportunity.

“The real concern is if Auckland decides to replace one Labour Mayor with another Labour Mayor. Nothing will change on this score. The last Labour Government had an appalling record when it came to growing public sector numbers and costs.

“The ongoing dismissiveness of these issues by council leaders flies completely in the face of what the public demanded in feedback to the 10-year budget just a few months back. The highest number of submissions on where people wanted to see spending cuts was overwhelmingly in the area of governance and support,” says Mr Brewer.

He says only six councillors supported his amendment during the recent budget debates in May to freeze the top-line wage and salary budget with 17 effectively voting for ongoing escalations.


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