Coun­cil’s ‘am­bi­tious’ over­haul not fin­ished yet

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Heather McCracken

Belts need to be tight­ened even fur­ther at Auck­land City Coun­cil to curb rates rises in com­ing years, a new re­port says.

The $20,000 re­port on the coun­cil’s or­gan­i­sa­tional cul­ture says cur­rent ef­forts to slash $270 mil­lion from the bud­get is not a longterm so­lu­tion.

Politi­cians need to set fewer pri­or­i­ties, rather than spread­ing money across a “clut­tered pro­gramme of projects”.

The re­port also says on­go­ing ef­forts to im­prove staff cul­ture still have some way to go.

Mayor John Banks agrees the coun­cil needs to sub­stan­tially lift its game.

“Much work has been done but more progress is needed.”

He says mea­sures to im­prove cus­tomer ser­vice, in­clud­ing new soft­ware de­signed to stream­line cus­tomer queries, are al­ready un­der way.

But he agrees with the re­port’s as­sess­ment that the coun­cil is do­ing too much on too many fronts.

“We have bit­ten off more than we can chew, and con­se­quently we are dialling back on much of our ac­tiv­i­ties,” Mr Banks says.

“We’re stay­ing very fo­cused on core busi­ness.”

City Vi­sion-Labour leader Richard Northey says he agrees the coun­cil should reg­u­larly pri­ori­tise ac­tiv­i­ties.

But he ob­jects to the re­port’s im­pli­ca­tion that staff could make mid-year bud­get ad­just­ments, in line with set goals.

“Coun­cil­lors need to de­cide in open meet­ings whether to end or de­fer val­ued ex­ist­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, not un­ac­count­able coun­cil staff in se­cret,” he says.

The re­port by con­sul­tant Doug Martin re­sulted from in­ter­views with se­nior staff, politi­cians and stake­hold­ers from other or­gan­i­sa­tions, but not with gen­eral ratepay­ers.

It says the coun­cil’s ex­ist­ing or­gan­i­sa­tional de­vel­op­ment pro­gramme, started in 2005 by chief ex­ec­u­tive David Rankin, is largely on track.

The pro­gramme aimed to deal with prob­lems in­clud­ing lack of em­pha­sis on cus­tomer ser­vice, un­der­de­vel­oped lead­er­ship and lack of di­rec­tion set­ting.

The re­view says the “am­bi­tious” pro­gramme is likely to show re­sults within 12 months, but there still needs to be a wide­spread cul­ture change among coun­cil staff.

It makes 17 rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing set­ting three or four key goals, lim­it­ing base­line op­er­at­ing spend­ing, and re­view­ing sav­ings monthly.

The find­ings of the re­port will be con­sid­ered by the per­for­mance mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tee and the fi­nance and strat­egy com­mit­tee.

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