Abstaining to try and avoid responsibility

The Herald reports:

Several Auckland councillors are expected to abstain from a budget vote this week to avoid plunging the Super City into a financial crisis.

Mayor Len Brown looks set to pass his new 10-year, $60 billion budget with less than half the votes of his council at Thursday’s governing body meeting.

He will get there after councillors were told the consequences of not passing the budget by chief executive Stephen Town and chief finance officer Sue Tindall over lunch last Thursday.

Councillors attending the lunch said the consequences were dire.

The council would not be able to strike the rates, refinance loans and meet stock exchange requirements.

Mr Town yesterday would not say what he told councillors, only that various “what if” questions had been posed by councillors and “hypothetically what sort of things might occur”.

This is scaremongering. If they don’t pass Len’s 9.9% rates increase budget, then all that happens if Len has to put forward a budget with less spending which can pass.

The mayor is believed to have the support of only seven of the 19 councillors due to attend Thursday’s meeting.

His position is weakened by the absence of two supporters – deputy mayor Penny Hulse and John Walker.

Six councillors are expected to vote against the budget – they are Cameron Brewer, Chris Fletcher, Denise Krum, Sharon Stewart, George Wood and Dick Quax.

The other five councillors – Cathy Casey, Ross Clow, Mike Lee, Wayne Walker and John Watson – have serious reservations about the budget.

They particularly object to a targeted rate for transport which takes average household rates increases to 9.9 per cent.

But instead of voting against the budget and plunging the council into crisis, most of the five are expected to abstain to allow the budget to pass.

An abstention is the same effectively as voting in favour. They are just trying to avoid responsibility. If they think this will save their jobs, they are wrong. Every Councillor who doesn’t vote against the 9.9% rates increase will be targeted for sacking at the next local body elections. And saying you didn’t vote for or against it won’t save you. This is a tactical abstention designed to allow it to pass, but with their fingerprints missing. Aucklanders are not that stupid.

Labour’s Ross Clow said the budget was too regressive and socked it to households and small businesses.

“I’m not going to vote against it but I certainly don’t support it,” he said.

Well then resign off Council. The job of the Council is to pass a budget – not to abstain. If you vote against a 9.9% increase Budget, then they have to put forward a smaller Budget.

UPDATE: Just been given an example which exposes the falsity of the Councillors claiming they have to abstain, or the Council will stop functioning. At Hamilton City the votes for the Budget were deadlocked. Rather than have Crs abstain (or use Mayor’s casting vote), the Mayor sent the budget back to the staff to redo.

Abstaining will be a mark of cowardice. You either vote for or against.

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