Dirty tricks from Auckland Council
Our efforts to hold Auckland Councillors to account are really getting under their skin
We've had the most incredible set of events over the last 48 hours here at the Ratepayers' Alliance
On Monday the media website 'The Spinoff' carried as its lead story an article which alleged (although it portrayed it as fact) a nasty and totally untrue allegation that our key personnel had been sending white feathers to Councillors as a symbol of cowardice. They were drawing a WWI inference, alleging that we considered those Councillors supportive of Phil Goff's proposed rate hikes akin to wartime traitors.
On social media, the claims went even further: that our efforts to hold Councillors to their 2% rates promise are 'far-right' extremism, and (another totally made up allegation) alleged that we had pinned white feathers to the front doors of Councillors' homes. These allegations are totally untrue.
After some heated correspondence, the allegations have been totally withdrawn and the story completely rewritten. The Spinoff has now apologised, but has still not explained why it made the allegations, and why no effort whatsoever was made to seek comment from us prior to publication.
Council-funded media organisation doing a hit job?
Incidentally, The Spinoff is funded by the controversial "Heart of the City" group - which is, of course, funded through rates!
The timing seems just too cute, with the Council's Finance and Performance Committee voting this week on the Budget. Was this intended to distract or discredit us? If so, it won't work.
Phil Goff's first budget
As mentioned, tomorrow the Finance and Performance Committee votes on this year's Annual Plan (Budget) which sets the rates for the next financial year.
The Mayor is proposing a 2.5% rates hike as well as new rates on businesses and hotels. It is being sold as a 'bed tax' - in fact, it is a plain rate just targeting a particular property sector.
Stand with us for fiscal prudence - keep politicians to their word
2% ≠ 2.5% (plus new taxes). These next few weeks will be a test for the Councillors who signed our 2% Ratepayer Protection Pledge but are now trying to back away.
For example, Orakei Councillor Desley Simpson says she is only bound by the Pledge "if the community doesn't tell her they want higher rates".
It seems she's relying on the Council's spin in its consultation documents that a 2% rate hike would lead to a reduction in services and that the majority of people in her ward gave feedback that they want service levels to stay the same.
We don't accept Cr Simpon's excuse - or the Council's spin. Surely with inflation at 2.2%, and the Council budgeting to reduce spending on transport infrastructure (yes, it really is reducing - despite the 9.9% rates hike last year!) Cr Simpson and the others should be able to find 0.2% efficiency. Cutting back on ballooning staff numbers would be a good place to start.
In addition, even if the 2% rates pledge matched Phil Goff's 2.5%, we don't see how these Councillors can vote for that and new 'targeted' rates on top. That's not what Aucklanders voted for!
Councillors appear to be siding with the Mayor, but the public feedback needed now is clear: Councillors should stick to their pledges.
Don't let the dirty-trick campaign deflect from the key message: politicians should be held to their word
Given that this Council appears to be stopping at nothing to prevent Councillors being held to their pre-election promises, we are redoubling our efforts to ensure Councillors who stood on a platform last year to keep rates at 2% are held to it.
Councillors who said they would keep rates low should do it. Click here to send an email.
In 2015/16, rates went up by 9.9%. Phil Goff promised to keep annual rate rises to 2.5%. Instead, Mr Goff is pushing for at least 2.5% and new "targeted rates". To do that, he needs some of the Councillors who signed the 2% Ratepayer Protection Pledge to breach it. That's what we need to prevent.
Thank you for your support.