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It’s Been A Bad Year So Let’s Put Up Our Prices

Auckland Council’s new 10-year Recovery Budget proposes to do what no business would or could do, if it wants to survive, and “say it’s been a bad year so let’s put up our prices”.

We know Council is looking at a billion dollar income hole, but unlike businesses, our local government monopoly has a toolbox of remedies it could open to find creative, innovative and courageous remedies to push recovery, maintain core services, invest in infrastructure and give the economy a boost while demonstrating it can do more with less more efficiently.

Instead, it does what Councils often do, hikes rates. First by 5 per cent from July, considerably higher than the annual inflation rate, and then continues with 3.5 per cent hikes annually, along with a nip and tuck approach to cost cutting to share the pain and belated move to accept that lifting the debt to revenue ceiling was the right move at this time.

No business would get away with reporting to its Board and shareholders such bland information without a summary or specifics of how each of the measures are going to see us rise from our financial mire, and what we should see is the strategy and vision for our future to hang the Budget off so we can chart out progress.

Council is not a business but can be business-like in the way it operates. Every CEO in town has had to go back to the Board and show in detail what and how it will do things differently and more efficiently to create value and mitigate losses. Council must do the same.

I don’t believe anyone is asking for a slash and burn approach, but surely it is time Council defined what constitutes a core service, identified where the private sector could deliver some services, like events, where there is opportunity for public private partnerships and funding to drive modernisation and world-class infrastructure developments, and what it can simply drop from its job sheet and ensure that it has capabilities that are going to drive transformation so that a fit, lean, agile, progressive organisation emerges.

Now is not the time for more of the same. The impact of the pandemic should be a circuit breaker to legacy thinking and practices. It’s time to redefine the future with a single focus on delivering value and build back our economic, environmental and social health and wellbeing so Auckland can thrive.

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