Dom Post on Local Govt Reform

The Dom Post editorial:

Local authorities have only themselves to blame for the Government forcing them to live within their means.

During almost a decade in which rates rose at more than twice the level of inflation and the debt owed by New Zealand’s 78 local bodies grew fourfold, councils have shown a disturbing lack of appreciation of the circumstances faced by their communities.

Ratepayers are not a bottomless pit.

It will give control of council staff numbers and salaries to councillors, rather than chief executives, and require annual reports to include the number of staff in $10,000 salary bands, as state agencies do now.

That move follows the huge increase in council wage bills after changes to the Local Government Act in 2002, which widened the scope of local authorities.

When the changes were implemented, the total salary bill for all councils was $884 million. By 2010, it had grown to more than $1.6 billion, an increase of more than 80 per cent. In the eight years before the changes, the salary bill increased by a total of just 8.7 per cent.

That’s even faster growth than in the civil service. Labour certainly created jobs – but jobs funded by taxes and rates, rather than paying taxes and rates (in a net sense).

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