News

October 08, 2015

Councillors Shouldn't Entertain TPPA Stunt Costing Ratepayers

MEDIA RELEASE

COUNCILLORS SHOULDN'T ENTERTAIN TPPA STUNT COSTING RATEPAYERS

8 OCTOBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is telling Auckland Council to stick to its knitting after today’s Regional Strategy and Policy Committee was hijacked by Councillor Wayne Walker who put forward a Notice of Motion with a number of recommendations for the committee to consider regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). Jo Holmes, a Spokesperson for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance, says:

“While many ratepayers may be against the TPPA deal, or want more information from the Government, very few will appreciate Auckland Council sticking its beak in and wasting more of ratepayers' money debating matters they have no jurisdiction over.”

“At the meeting members of the Council were calling this stunt a total waste of ratepayer money. Instead of wasting two hours, or around $40,000 on discussing the TPPA, Councillors could go do something useful instead - mow a few berms perhaps."

“Len Brown and his Council should leave international relations to Wellington. We don’t need to pay twice."

ENDS

October 08, 2015

Our ratepayer plan - will you help us?

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance was launched back in April to provide a counter balance to a Mayor, Council, and officialdom who aren’t delivering the value for money we were promised with the Super City

Now that we are six months in, I thought it would be a good opportunity to update you about our progress and our plans for the next 12 months. How are we going to force the Council to put a halt to the high rates/high debt and big spending agenda?

Progress to date

Our movement is growing.  We are now in excess of 14,000 members across Auckland. In 6 months that is an incredible achievement – for comparison, the nationwide membership of the Labour Party is only around 15,000. A big thank you to our volunteers who delivered 25,000 “Have you rates gone up” leaflets – the response has been fantastic. Thank you too to those who donated generously and made the leaflet drop possible. 

Arming Aucklanders with the facts

Len Brown wants you to believe that he needs to rack up rates by 9.9% in order to afford quality infrastructure. In reality, despite his new transport levy, Auckland Council is now wasting so much money Auckland Transport has less money to spend on capital works this year!

We need to convince our fellow Aucklanders that we can have both affordable rates, and decent infrastructure. To do it, we will continue to expose examples of the Council wasting our money – it’s only through exposing the waste that we demonstrate that the Council could very well trim the fat, without it affecting core services for ratepayers.

Last week we launched the first of our Ratepayer Briefings examining the Council’s debt since amalgamation. The paper is available for download here. It shows that:

  • Auckland Council now has $10.09 billion in liabilities. To put this in perspective, it’s around $20,000 the Council owes per Auckland household.

  • Auckland Council’s per capita debt is so high that Aucklanders are in a worse position than Kaipara ratepayers in 2012 (when Government commissioners were appointed).

  • Despite record low interest rates, the Council's finance costs in 2014/15 amounted to $422 million. The Council's books are extremely vulnerable when the rates inevitably rise.

  • Len Brown’s fiscal management has increased total liabilities by 60% in the last 5 years and 15% in the last 12 months alone.

Leighton Smith picked up on our paper – you can listen to Leighton's comments here.

The 2017 elections – an opportunity for change

As a politically independent group we are not going to be running our own candidates at next years election. Instead we're going to be asking every Council and Mayoral candidate (regardless of their political affiliation) to sign a "Ratepayer Protection Pledge" - the pledge will ensure that Aucklanders know who will put an end to 9.9% rate hikes (and who won’t). The pledge will also serve as a very public commitment that the we can use to hold elected officials to account.

In addition, for the run up to the elections next year, we want to have the following in place: 

  • Leaflets ready to drop into every letterbox in the areas represented by the "Terrible Ten" Councillors who voted for the 9.9% rates. This will remind voters that these Councillors worked with Len Brown to replace his 2.5% rates rise cap with the 9.9% broken promise.

  • A mobile debt clock that shows the amount debt is rising every second under the Len Brown mayoralty (and the per household cost). By taking the mobile debt clock to candidate meetings we'll make sure affordability and low rates are at the forefront of the election campaign.

To make these campaigns possible we need more members and more donations. We also need you to spread the word and encourage co-workers, friends, and family members to join us. Only with numbers can we ensure our goal of a Super City with reasonable rates and sensible spending is achieved.

If you would like to become more involved in the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance you can contact us here, volunteer here, or please take a moment to donate here.

Let’s make it happen.

Jo Holmes
Spokesperson
Auckland Ratepayers' Alliance
www.ratepayers.nz

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October 02, 2015

Super City Debt A Ticking Time Bomb

MEDIA RELEASE

SUPER CITY DEBT A TICKING
TIME BOMB

2 OCTOBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Auckland Council’s debt per person is now so high that it makes the failed Kaipara District Council look prudent, according to an Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance 'Ratepayers' Briefing released today. The paper, by Moritz Miersch, reports on the total liabilities incurred since the formation of the Super City and compares the same to Kaipara in 2012 when Government commissioners were appointed.

Ratepayers' Alliance spokesperson, Jo Holmes, says:

“Auckland Council now have $10.09 billion in liabilities. To put this in perspective, it’s around $20,000 the Council owes per Auckland household.”

“Despite record low interests rates, the Council's finance costs in 2014/15 amounted to $422 million. The Council's books are extremely vulnerable when the rates inevitably rise."

“Len Brown’s fiscal management has increased the credit card bill by 60% in the last 5 years and 15% in the last 12 months alone. It’s time the Council took responsibility for the tab it is leaving future generations.”

Click here to download a PDF of the Ratepayers' Briefing.

ENDS

October 02, 2015

Ratepayer Briefing on Super City's liabilities

Auckland Council’s debt per person is now so high that it makes the failed Kaipara District Council look prudent, according to an Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance 'Ratepayers' briefing released today. The paper, by Moritz Miersch, reports on the total liabilities incurred since the formation of the Super City and compares the same to Kaipara in 2012 when Government commissioners were appointed.

The paper shows that:

  • Auckland Council now have $10.09 billion in liabilities. To put this in perspective, it’s around $20,000 the Council owes per Auckland household.

  • Despite record low interests rates, the Council's finance costs in 2014/15 amounted to $422 million. The Council's books are extremely vulnerable when the rates inevitably rise.

  • Len Brown’s fiscal management has increased the credit card bill by 60% in the last 5 years and 15% in the last 12 months alone. It’s time the Council took responsibility for the tab it is leaving future generations.

Click here to download the briefing paper, or view below.

September 25, 2015

Council's Financials Even Worse Than Expected

MEDIA RELEASE

COUNCIL'S FINANCIALS EVEN WORSE THAN EXPECTED

FRIDAY 25 SEPTEMBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Today’s release of Auckland Council’s annual report show that the City is in an even worse financial shape than its critics predicted. The report, adopted by the Council yesterday and released today, show that the Council’s total liabilities have grown by more than a billion dollars, or 15 percent in 12 months.

Jo Holmes, Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesperson says:

“The fact that the Council is releasing the report on a Friday, the day spin doctors release bad news, speaks volumes about how bad these numbers are.”

“Today’s debt is tomorrow’s higher rates. While the Council will point to their asset base as try to justify the red ink, our analysis shows that even on a per household basis the Council is in a much sorrier state than Kaipara District Council which effectively went bust in 2012.”

“Auckland Council’s budget deficit dwarfs recent deficits in central government. Len Brown’s legacy looks set to be financial disaster." 

ENDS

 

September 18, 2015

Council Staff Blow Out Astonishing

MEDIA RELEASE

COUNCIL STAFF BLOWOUT ASTONISHING

FRIDAY 18 SEPTEMBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

“No wonder rates are going up,” says Jo Holmes, spokesperson for the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance in reaction to today’s news that Auckland Council has had a $63 million blowout in staff costs.

“The Council appears to be trying to soften the public for next week’s release of the annual accounts which are understood to show ballooning operating expenses and debt.

“The Council should be benchmarking itself to wages in the private sector. Instead, not only is the Council bringing on more people, the wages for existing staff are rising much faster than in the private sector.

“Cushy job if you can get it. But it's Auckland ratepayers who are picking up Len Brown’s tab.”

ENDS

 

September 14, 2015

How many Council staff? Who knows?

Last week Stuff.co.nz published this article about the Council’s increase in staff numbers. It appears to paint a different picture regarding staff numbers to official information we received from the Council.

Auckland Council has around 200 more staff than it did last year, thanks to the city's rapid growth.

The council is about to release its annual report for the 12 months to June 2015, showing both its revenue and expenditure rose during the year.

This was because of Auckland's increasing population, council officers said.

The city grew by 45,000 people last year, up from an increase of 35,000 in 2014.

"Population growth has a direct impact on many of our our activities," Matthew Walker, general manager financial plan, policy and budget, said.

The council and its agencies, including Watercare and Auckland Transport, hired 208 more full-time equivalents (FTEs) in the 2015 year.

This amounted to an extra $63 million in staff costs, Kevin Ramsay, general manager finance, said.

Firstly, that statement must be incorrect. If the hiring of 208 additional staff members caused an increase in staffing costs of $63 million per annum, that means each of those new staff would be taking home an average salary of over $300,000! 

For example numbers of building consents went up 6 per cent in the year, meaning the council had to employ the equivalent of 42 more people in the building and resource consents areas to process them.

Auckland Transport, which oversaw big projects such as the rollout of the electric trains and the first full year of the integrated HOP passenger card, employed 116 more FTEs.

"That was a lot of people being brought on board just to increase that ability to deliver those services," Ramsay said.

Auckland Transport employed 116 more FTEs in part due to the introduction of HOP cards – cards which are supposed to automate transactions between customers and staff. With the introduction of a card to help streamline and automate services, ratepayers would expect staffing numbers to be reduced. Yet Auckland Transport seem to think the introduction of the simpler service is somehow justification for employing more people at the ratepayer’s expense!

Likewise water services provider Watercare employed 58 more FTES,  "just to literally serve, to operate, to maintain and deliver on that infrastructure".

There were also one-off events which required more staffing, such as the handling of a record number of submissions on the council's new 10-year budget, the Unitary Plan hearings currently being held, and the FIFA Under 20 and Cricket World Cups.

Nevertheless the council made an operating surplus of $80 million for the year, and its $2.2 billion spend on staff and suppliers was within budget, he said.

Staff numbers were still around 230 fewer than when the Auckland Super City was created five years ago.

Auckland Council can’t seem to get their story straight. Last month we received a response to an information request about staff numbers, which showed that the total FTE of the legacy councils was 9,430, while Auckland Council as at 30 June 2014 was 9,394 FTE.

The Council cannot seem to get their story right. On the one hand they are telling us that they employed 208 more FTE in the past year, which would take their total FTE up to 9,602. Yet on the other they are claiming that they employ slightly less FTE than the sum of the legacy councils (9,430).

Seems that the Council’s spinning, rather than giving ratepayers an accurate picture of staff numbers. That’s not good enough.

September 14, 2015

Ratepayers Don't Need A Len Brown 'Ministry Of Information'

MEDIA RELEASE

RATEPAYERS DON'T NEED A LEN BROWN 'MINISTRY OF INFORMATION'

MONDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is shocked that Auckland Council is set to announce a new mobile app and online news service the cost of which is unknown. Jo Holmes, a spokesperson for the Ratepayers’ Alliance, says:
 
“At 130 staff, Auckland Council has more spin doctors than any Auckland newsroom has journalists. Instead of serving ratepayers, the Council looks set to create a ‘Pravda’ style propaganda outlet.”
 
“Auckland Council gets bad press because it racks up rates, wastes our money, and has reduced its infrastructure spend, despite the new transport levy. Instead of fixing itself the Council wants to launch a news service to engineer propaganda. Ratepayers will be saying 'no no no’ to the creation of a Soviet style 'Ministry of Information'.”

 

ENDS

 

September 14, 2015

Council Claims Of Lower Staff Numbers Smoke And Mirrors

MEDIA RELEASE

COUNCIL CLAIMS OF LOWER STAFF NUMBERS SMOKE AND MIRRORS

MONDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance has released an Auckland Council document which appears to contradict recent public statements by Council officials relating to the number of FTE staff at Auckland Council.

On Thursday, Kevin Ramsay, the Council’s General Manager Finance announced that despite the Council having hired 208 more full-time equivalent staff last year, total staff numbers were still around 230 fewer than the sum of the legacy councils, which were amalgamated five years ago.

The Council document released by the Ratepayers' Alliance dated 27 August 2015 shows that the total number of FTEs of the legacy councils was 9,430. As at 30 June 2014 (the balance date of Auckland Council's last Annual Report), the Council stated that FTE staff numbers were 9,394. The Council's acknowledgement that FTE numbers have increased by 208 in the last 12 months appears to contradict Mr Ramsay's claim that Council staff numbers are lower now than they were prior to amalgamation.

Jo Holmes, Auckland Ratepayers Alliance spokesperson, says:

“Auckland Council appears to have been caught out spinning its own staff numbers. It tells one thing to ratepayers, while these official documents say quite another."

"Data obtained by the Ratepayers’ Alliance shows that a year ago the Council had only 36 fewer staff than the legacy councils. Now staff numbers have gone up by 208 but the Council would have you believe that it still has fewer staff than in 2010. If you believe that then I’ve got a bridge to sell you.”

“No matter how much Len Brown’s staff spin it, we have clearly reached the point where the Auckland's Super City is larger than the sum of its parts.”

The Council's August document is available on the Ratepayers' Alliance website.

ENDS

 

September 01, 2015

Ratepayers' Alliance Welcome Auckland Transport U-Turn

MEDIA RELEASE

RATEPAYERS’ ALLIANCE WELCOME AUCKLAND TRANSPORT U-TURN

TUESDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

After raising more than 2,000 signatures in support, the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance is welcoming Auckland Transport’s decision to waive the 27 tickets it issued to residents of Orakei's narrow Apihai and Tautari streets. The tickets were issued for parking on footpaths in a recent 2am blitz, despite publication of photos showing a Council vehicle breaching the same rules.
 
Jo Holmes, Spokesperson for the Ratepayers’ Alliance, says, “Auckland Transport is finally applying some common sense and we welcome the decision."
 
“Our members were particularly disturbed by the Council’s apparent duplicity in refusing to ticket Council employees for breaking the same rules. Though it’s a small victory, it’s good to see people power can force Auckland Transport’s hand."

ENDS