New pow­ers no more than ex­pected

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

Porirua’s elected of­fi­cials will have in­creased pow­ers over the city coun­cil’s bud­get and staff in sweep­ing changes be­ing in­tro­duced by cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

By Septem­ber, laws should be in place giv­ing elected coun­cil mem­bers the power to set caps on coun­cil staff num­bers and to set coun­cil’s em­ploy­ment and re­mu­ner­a­tion pol­icy.

Af­ter Oc­to­ber 2013 the coun­try’s may­ors will have more say on plans, poli­cies and bud­gets and will be able to es­tab­lish com­mit­tees and ap­point com­mit­tee chair­men and deputy may­ors.

Auck­land’s su­percity al­ready has these pow­ers.

The changes were made public re­cently in the ‘‘ Bet­ter Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment’’ re­port writ­ten by then­lo­cal gov­ern­ment min­is­ter Nick Smith.

Porirua mayor Nick Leggett says the changes will bring coun­cil­lors’ pow­ers into line with public ex­pec­ta­tions.

‘‘What’s in­trigued me since be­ing elected is the per­cep­tion among res­i­dents and com­mu­nity groups that the mayor is more pow­er­ful than they are and that they are es­sen­tially the chief ex­ec­u­tive.

‘‘ And un­for­tu­nately elected mem­bers are quite pow­er­less at times,’’ he says.

‘‘I think it’s a re­ally pos­i­tive move that the mayor pro­poses the bud­get and elected mem­bers have more say on the re­mu­ner­a­tion of staff.’’

How­ever, a good mayor will have in­flu­ence on ap­point­ments and coun­cil de­ci­sions any­way, Mr Leggett says.

Coun­cil staff salaries rose 86 per cent na­tion­wide be­tween 2002 and 2010, but had in­creased only 8.7 per cent in the eight years be­fore 2002, when coun­cils were given a broader brief un­der the Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Act.

Num­bers of coun­cil staff and their salary bands will be pub­lished as part of for­mer min­is­ter Dr Smith’s changes.

mayor

Im­prov­ing coun­cils’ fi­nances, ef­fi­ciency and gov­er­nance are the Gov­ern­ment’s mo­tives for re­form.

Mr Leggett dis­agrees with Dr Smith’s sug­ges­tion that high rates and grow­ing coun­cil debt are due to coun­cil spend­ing on projects be­yond core ser­vices like sew­er­age, rub­bish col­lec­tion and li­braries.

‘‘Those projects haven’t driven up rates, what has is cap­i­tal and in­fra­struc­ture projects.’’

In any case, Porirua does not have high debt com­pared to some other coun­cils, Mr Leggett says. ‘‘Porirua is not in that sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘We do have our is­sues of course, one be­ing high rates.’’

New guide­lines to re­strict coun­cils’ man­dates to core ser­vices do not have any bite, Mr Leggett says – most projects would still go ahead un­der the loose guide­lines.

‘‘It’s a kind of tough talk but it ac­tu­ally doesn’t re­ally fol­low through. If you can prove public good and lo­cal good, you can still do it.’’

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