My blog at Stuff is on reining in local government.
In 2002 local councils were given the power of general competence. It meant they could do anything at all, so long as a majority of councillors voted for it. Any amount of spending could be justified so long as it contributed to the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their communities.
For the life of me, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be justified under those criteria. A local council could probably build its own air force and claim it was essential to their social wellbeing.
I deal with the counter view:
Some have argued that these proposed reforms are undemocratic. They say that a local council should be able to spend ratepayers’ money on anything they want, and it is up to the local voters to keep them or sack them. They say the Government should leave it to local voters.
The problem I have with this argument is that many large items of expenditure that councils approve are not known before elections, and councils proceed regardless. Some of them turn into disasters such as the Hamilton V8s. Yes, you can sack the councillors responsible at the next election, but that doesn’t stop you being left with the bill regardless.
And the bill keeps getting bigger.Tags: By the numbers, Local Body Politics, Stuff