Tim Shadbolt on 101 ways to save money in local government

June 23rd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Taxpayers Union has released a report by Jono Brown titled 101 ways to save money in local government.

There are forwards by Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace and Invercargill Mayor Tim Shabolt. Shadbolt says:

Having been a mayor for 28 years and finally achieving a rate increase of less than 1%, I’ve learnt to face many challenges and this publication is certainly challenging. Some of the ideas are obviously worthy of discussion and others are clearly designed to provoke discussion. Local government representatives can often hide under the cloak of “public service” which generates barricades of knighthoods, QSMs and QSOs.

Occasionally a rogue mayor such as Michael Laws or Wayne Brown would poke their heads above the parapet and lob a grenade or two about the hopelessness of local government but both were eventually destroyed by self-inflicted wounds.

In my view we should never flinch from criticism. At least our critics are interested enough to wrestle with local bodies. Our real opponents are those who don’t give a damn, don’t vote, don’t connect, don’t criticise, don’t communicate and don’t under any circumstances get involved.

Hopefully this publication will anger, inspire or depress but it won’t make us feel apathetic

Some of the 101 ways include:

  • Don’t fund or join chambers of commerce
  • Publish all accounts payable transactions
  • Save on water costs by proactively detecting leaks in the water network
  • Require end of year reports from groups which councils fund
  • Abolish youth councils and standing consultative committees
  • Incentives for recycling
  • Don’t fund “sock puppets” and “fake charities”
  • Get rid of professional sports subsidies disguised as ‘economic development’
  • Don’t implement the living wage
  • Don’t copy central government activities
  • Use “hot desking”
  • Encourage mobile working
  • Use energy saving light bulbs, or smart lighting technologies.
  • Stop producing glossy brochures
  • Cut transaction costs by offering a discount to those who pay by direct debit
  • Send rate demands by email
  • Use cheaper surfacing for footpaths that are unlikely to be used muchKeep a tight grip on spending by council controlled organisations by having independent directors from the commercial sector
  • Pay managers based on the performance of their departments
  • Give all staff the option of performance-based pay
  • Publish the job titles of all members of staf
  • Stick to doing things councils are good at

Not all 101 ideas will apply to all Councils, but there’s no Council that doesn’t have a degree of inefficiency and rather than keep increasing rates for ratepayers, the Taxpayers Union will continue to fight for more efficient government, so rates and taxes can decrease.

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36 Responses to “Tim Shadbolt on 101 ways to save money in local government”

  1. notrotsky (59 comments) says:

    Isn’t it remarkable for those of us in the older generation who remember Tim in his much younger years that we’d now swap our current mayor for him in a heartbeat.

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  2. Jimbo (40 comments) says:

    I agree with a number of these but the vast majority are pretty underwhelming.

    Perhaps the silliest is the first one which suggests that paying back all debt is a good idea. While I agree that councils shouldn’t be borrowing to fund hip hop groups, in many cases borrowing is the best way to fund infrastructure projects that will benefit multiple generations, ensuring that the costs are shared fairly. Trying to fund infrastructure through rates would lead to some pretty crazy rates bills in some years.

    If that’s the best advice that the taxpayers’ union can come up with I’d hate to see them running a listed company.

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  3. Dom Knots (155 comments) says:

    ‘hot desking’ – cuts to a shot of Len Brown sawing away at ms Chuang.

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  4. Tarquin North (119 comments) says:

    I hope someone on the Whangarei council reads this. They seem to do the complete opposite up here.

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  5. Ross12 (1,144 comments) says:

    Jimbo

    The point is the most Councils don’t do these basic things , so there is little point talking about anything more sophisticated.

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  6. publicwatchdog (2,093 comments) says:

    Open the books and cut out the contractors.

    Penny Bright

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  7. Lance (2,439 comments) says:

    Goodness
    Looks like Tim’s journey to the dark side is complete.
    Welcome Tim

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  8. mjw (207 comments) says:

    Very good stuff. I don’t agree with all of it, but there is much that is practical and easy to do.

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  9. Doc (88 comments) says:

    » Stop producing glossy brochures

    My blood pressure rises every time I get one of those glossy “Look how much of your money we’ve spent for you” brochures in my letterbox!!!

    10% per annum rate rises for the past three years, and I’m expecting a 30-40% increase this year >:-(

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  10. David Garrett (6,333 comments) says:

    How amusing that Shadbolt thinks abolishing “Youth councils” is a good way to save money…100 years ago, when he was stoned in Albert Part and wearing a Che Guevara T shirt he would have been outraged at such a proposal…

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  11. shoreboy57 (129 comments) says:

    Now for an index of how many of the 101 each has adopted…

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  12. Ed Snack (1,733 comments) says:

    The idea of emailing rates is one of those “sounds good” ideas, but fails the practicality test, at least for all rates demands. If it was phrased as moving towards emailing, fine, but probably something like 20% or more of ratepayers (as distinct from the general population, much skewed to older people) don’t have email.

    In my workplace we’ve gone this way with customer generated invoices, but we still have around 20% fax for people who won’t accept email. It is reducing, it used to be over 50%, but change can be slow.

    I agree that they should try, but be respectful towards those who can’t or won’t use email.

    Contractors though, should be used where ever suitable; there are definitely places to use them and places not to. However I would agree that transparency and a competitive bidding process is essential or it can become a tidy little earner for some.

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  13. anticorruptionnz (158 comments) says:

    Get council officers to use initiative, I recently heard that it costs bout $300 to change a light bulb .
    Guess they have to apply for resource consent first .

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  14. NK (1,066 comments) says:

    Penny, if the books were “opened” they wouldn’t show income from rates by you so you can’t complain until you pay them.

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  15. Colville (2,062 comments) says:

    cut out the contractors.

    Yip have a Council drone padding out 40 hours a week with meetings and PC bullshit, to do something that a contractor would charge half a days pay for yip.

    Not.

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  16. Colville (2,062 comments) says:

    Get council officers to use initiative, I recently heard that it costs bout $300 to change a light bulb .
    Guess they have to apply for resource consent first .

    get quotes from contractors. It will be about $5.

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  17. mikemikemikemike (301 comments) says:

    Use “hot desking”
    Encourage mobile working

    Unless my employer is going to subsidise my internet and power (including for the increased heating bills etc.) for working at home I would not advocate for this. I would also expect for the tax on my property to be adjusted to reflect that it is also a place for business.

    To say it is a convenience is rubbish unless you are expecting that I will be doing less work because I am at home. If you expect me to have a home office and dedicate an 8 hour day (perfectly reasonable) then the office I am trading services for should bear the reasonable increase in my domestic costs for doing so.

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  18. hj (6,342 comments) says:

    Invercargill doesn’t have the problems of a population Ponzi (sucking vampire squid) such as Auckland does?

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  19. anticorruptionnz (158 comments) says:

    the contractor unfortunately will have to charge getting there looking at the socket, driving to the warehouse uplifting bulb driving back, finding ladder get on ladder and put it in driving back generating invoice … Show me a contractor who could do it for $5 and i will show you a company about to go under.

    On the other hand have some spare bulbs in the supply cupboard have the appropriate gear handy suitable OSH training for equipment and voila its done.

    If you dont posses the skills to change a light bulb you should not be employed at council . ( this is of course based on the standard light bulb and not on complicated bulbs 60 feet from the ground.)

    common sense prevails and these things used to get done by the on site maintenance man.

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  20. Elaycee (4,297 comments) says:

    Jimbo: If that’s the best advice that the taxpayers’ union can come up with I’d hate to see them running a listed company.

    The Taxpayers Union released the Report. It was authored by Jono Brown.

    Sorted.

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  21. redeye (631 comments) says:

    “Stop producing glossy brochures”!!!

    In fact stop all spending on branding. They’re a monopoly service organisation with a completely captive Client base.

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  22. kowtow (7,584 comments) says:

    In his 28 years I wonder how many “sister cities” he’s gone along with and visited.

    If none ,good on him. If any, then STFU about saving or wasting money.

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  23. anticorruptionnz (158 comments) says:

    Sorry you are way off the mark there branding is important that way a manager can re brand the division he is head of to look like a private enterprise and people can be fooled into thinking they are dealing with a fictitious organization rather than council
    see http://www.transparency.net.nz/2014/02/15/does-auckland-council-not-know-what-corruption-is/

    How else can a manager make a bit on the side???

    council condones this even covers it up no one else cares a hoot so it must be legal.

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  24. lazza (358 comments) says:

    Good! stuff TU … and respondents.

    Lets make it “201 Ways …” … by adopting response-suggestions starting with

    …. “Now for an index of how many of the 101 ways each Council has adopted”…

    Add … Discontinue Sister City and other “BS” jollies such as Elected Members./Mayoral overseas “visits”

    Also … “Stop “BS” Council logos, signage branding … Geez”.

    “Stop producing glossy brochures” and huge newspaper ads/notices advertise heading and url and use the Council website .

    Rein in PR budgets/manning.

    Set (elected members vote!) % limits above base salaries for all upper levels of salary bands.

    Pay to “market rate” not ruled by any minimum wage ideas.

    Use IT for all public library functions … ever heard of the internet … and an “E Reader”?

    Encourage and finance (seed money) for all qualifying voluntary community-based activities (turn over parks and halls to local communities).

    Discontinue the Council grant schemes to organisations more properly funded from central government taxes or from their own fundraising.

    Run audited/moderated/independent annual public satisfaction surveys.

    Insist that the public auditors do their job properly and actively attack wastage of public monies.

    Honesty Box Charging for use of internet facilities hotspots and at libraries and Honesty BC also for non-resident tourist facilties usage including public toilets, parks, beaches, walks, gardens, bike tracks,wharves and so on

    Audit all Council proposed % rates increase announcements.

    Permit/encourage privately fiunded street sealing by local road residents.

    … “Yours? …” C’mon guys and gals

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  25. woodburner (27 comments) says:

    Absent from the list: “Ringfence depreciation”. I’m no accountant so there is probably a rational explanation here, but it seems local authorities are forever borrowing for capital item replacements even though the original item has been depreciated over its life. Isn’t depreciation to fund its replacement? If so, why do they need to borrow?

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  26. unaha-closp (1,111 comments) says:

    Auckland Council’s Public Information Office allows staff to work hours that avoid peak commute times.

    Wouldn’t it be a better idea for council staff specifically being paid to provide info to the public worked normal hours?

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  27. anticorruptionnz (158 comments) says:

    Have a whistleblower hot line and encourage reports of bullying, contracts to relatives, and other corruption

    do not discourage whistleblowing and force whistleblowers to sign a confidentiality clause hnd them a sizable sum and show them the door.

    Corruption must not be condoned.

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  28. David Garrett (6,333 comments) says:

    anticorruption: The glaring problem with your suggestion is that common sense is no longer very common…When I was an MP I had some wallah come and inspect my office for “optimal ergonomics and safety”…He almost had a fit when he saw my computer screen sitting on two phone books – as it is right now, at my home office.

    He immediately ordered a super duper do-wang which could move the screen every which way…I asked him if he could leave a crescent and a screwdriver so I could fit and adjust the thing when it arrived… Almost a second heart attack… It had to be done by an “appropriately trained” person…That was the first of many times I lamented the apparent death of common sense all over the parliamentary complex, and not just in the House…

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  29. ross411 (220 comments) says:

    David Garrett (5,918 comments) says:
    June 23rd, 2014 at 12:35 pm
    anticorruption: The glaring problem with your suggestion is that common sense is no longer very common…When I was an MP I had some wallah come and inspect my office for “optimal ergonomics and safety”…He almost had a fit when he saw my computer screen sitting on two phone books – as it is right now, at my home office.

    He immediately ordered a super duper do-wang which could move the screen every which way…I asked him if he could leave a crescent and a screwdriver so I could fit and adjust the thing when it arrived… Almost a second heart attack… It had to be done by an “appropriately trained” person…That was the first of many times I lamented the apparent death of common sense all over the parliamentary complex, and not just in the House…

    The office accoutrement specialist, and the office accoutrement fitting technician both belong to IMPORTANT UNIONS! I hope you’re not suggesting their human right to make-work be discriminated against. There are layers and layers of union bureaucracy who along with their families, depend on them to be out there “working”. My goodness, next you will be suggesting that not only do they not fulfil a useful purpose, but that they should not be paid the living wage?! Sacre bleu! How can zis be?

    How will they be able to watch Wimbledon on ESPN this year, without their living wage subsidised human right entitled sky subscription? Honestly David, what are you thinking.

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  30. anticorruptionnz (158 comments) says:

    common sense prevails where there is honesty and integrity
    when you employ morons you cannot get common sense
    Morons are employed because they are some ones sister, brother uncle.. and not because they are qualified to do the job.
    in the end its about $$$$$$ and those who hold the purse strings dont want the dosh to go too far.

    we need an independent commission agaisnt corruption .

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  31. Dirty Rat (383 comments) says:

    “woodburner (23 comments) says:
    June 23rd, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    Absent from the list: “Ringfence depreciation”. I’m no accountant so there is probably a rational explanation here, but it seems local authorities are forever borrowing for capital item replacements even though the original item has been depreciated over its life. Isn’t depreciation to fund its replacement? If so, why do they need to borrow?

    Ringfencing is a Taxation term and Depreciation doesnt involve cash

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  32. lazza (358 comments) says:

    Woodburner asks (a really! important) question … as follows.

    “Isn’t depreciation to fund its replacement? If so, why do they need to borrow?”

    ANSWER: Because these (Council) ratbags have spent their depreciation funding on fripperies … such as for example a grandiose new Council building (Horowhenua) when their water and wastewater consents are out of time and new/replacement facilities are overdue.

    This is a criminal misuse of (what are effectively) “trust monies” that have been raised for a specific legal purpose … but are now misapproproiated.

    And where, (I hear you cry) were the auditors?

    ANSWER: “Out to lunch” … on Lambton Quay.

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  33. backster (2,074 comments) says:

    No mention of getting rid of unelected iwi councillors. Or refusing to provide koha on behalf of ratepayers to tribal authorities.
    otherwise sound advice sure to be ignored by most councils.

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  34. william blake (106 comments) says:

    Don’t implement the living wage.

    I knew the Bottom of the South would rot Tim’s brain eventually, what a fucking sell out.

    102. sell off the Mayoral chains.

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  35. Dazzaman (1,123 comments) says:

    Rates and taxes decrease?! Never heard of such a thing.

    Like the list……Horowhenua District Council take note!

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  36. Dazzaman (1,123 comments) says:

    I hear you lazza, I hear you…….I spit out the window towards the HDC palace every time I drive by.

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