December 13, 2022

Ratepayers' Alliance releases briefing paper on Mayoral Proposal

A new briefing paper released by the Auckland Ratepayers’ Alliance challenges official advice provided to elected members on the Mayoral Proposal for Annual Budget 2023/24.

Last week, Auckland Council published staff advice to elected members recommending a $130 million savings package. The savings represent just 1.7% of the $7.9 billion Auckland Council budgeted to spend in this financial year.

The advice claimed that savings would need to come at the expense of services and community facilities. While potential further savings of up to $110 million were also identified by staff, the Governing Body has been advised to defer these until at least 2024.

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is urging elected members to reject the staff advice and demand bigger savings from Council Controlled Organisations. Auckland Transport, Eke Panuku, and Tātaki Auckland Unlimited between them received around $560 million from ratepayers to cover their operational expenses.

Ratepayers’ Alliance spokesman Josh Van Veen says, “Staff have told elected members that keeping rates below household inflation is unsustainable and savings can’t be made without reducing services and access to community facilities. But this advice doesn’t stand up to independent scrutiny.”

Of particular concern to the Ratepayers’ Alliance is the $1.2 billion of expenditure by CCOs and the Ports of Auckland that is reported as miscellaneous ‘Other operating expenses’ with no itemised breakdown. However, much of this appears to be spent on consultants.

Auckland Transport alone spent $42 million of operating expenditure on consultant fees with only $7 million going to ‘Service delivery’. This excludes on-site contract staff and maintenance contractors.

“Unlike central government, Auckland Council does not report detailed information about expenditure on contractors and consultants. Nor did Council officers provide any advice to elected members on this expenditure as part of the annual budget process. We had to request the information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act,” Mr. Van Veen said.

“Disappointingly, Auckland Council has delayed the release of information relating to expenditure on contractors and consultants until after the Governing Body votes on the Mayoral Proposal,” Mr. Van Veen said.

The Ratepayers’ Alliance is urging elected members to push back against Council officers and tell them to come up with an alternative savings package. The paper released today makes the following recommendations to the Governing Body:

  1. Instruct Auckland Transport to find $50 million of savings from its corporate office, without increasing fares or reducing public transport services.
  2. Suspend Auckland Unlimited’s activities in economic development and visitor attraction for the 2023/24 financial year as these have negligible impact on regional GDP.
  3. Disband the urban regeneration arm of Panuku and transfer responsibility of outstanding projects to the Auckland Council parent.
  4. Instruct the Chief Executive of Auckland Council to place a ‘hiring freeze’ on all non-essential roles within the Auckland Council parent until there has been an independent review of concerns about overstaffing and inflated salaries of management.

While the Ratepayers’ Alliance has no objection to the sale of Council shares in Auckland International Airport, asset sales must not be used to fund wasteful spending.

The briefing paper can be read here.