Another Councillor stands against Celia

July 20th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

And then there were eight.

Veteran city councillor Andy Foster has added his name to what is becoming a very congested field in the race for Wellington’s mayoralty.

Foster, the council’s transport and urban development committee chairman, said he threw his hat in the ring because he felt the capital had lacked leadership for some years, and had been making too many “ad-hoc” decisions.

When he looked at the other seven people who have publicly declared they will run for mayor, he did not see a lot of those required leadership qualities, he said.

So Andy is saying the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Wellington don’t have leadership qualities, nor does the Mayor of Porirua.

Foster said he had been contemplating a mayoral run for the past couple of months.

The Karori-based councillor will also contest a council seat in Onslow-Western, a ward where he has held a comfortable vote margin for some time.

Foster has stood for the mayoralty once before, in 2001, but has been largely content to act as a councillor during his 24 years of serving Wellington city.

Personal reasons played a part in his decision to challenge for the top job once again, he said. Foster’s son and daughter are now aged 13 and 11, and are old enough for him to be able to devote a bit more time to his political career.

Six of the eight mayoral candidates currently occupy a seat around the Wellington City Council table, meaning more than the third of existing councillors are now eyeing up a promotion.

When a third of the Council challenges the Mayor for the top job, it shows things aren’t good.

I’m just glad we have STV so we can rank our candidates – otherwise someone might win on 15% of the vote!

Wellington transport woes

June 4th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington might never solve its Basin Reserve traffic troubles, Finance Minister Bill English says – because it lacks a “progressive attitude”.

He said the Government was spending plenty of money on big road projects north of Wellington, and would fund them in the capital too, if the city could agree on a plan.

Wellington “found it hard to want growth”, he told business leaders in Porirua on Wednesday, as evidenced by the drawn-out debate over how to solve congestion in the central city.

It was possible the city would never solve the Basin’s congestion woes, which were holding up construction of a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and hampering access to the airport and hospital, English said.

His comments came on the same day an independent report, commissioned by the New Zealand Transport Agency, pointed to a loss of “ministerial confidence” in Wellington City Council’s ability to deliver its cycleway programme.

When asked to elaborate on Thursday, English said his message to Wellington was that, if it could come up with an alternative solution at the Basin, the Government would probably fund it.

The lack of local leadership on funding a solution is apparent.

But it would not keep money sitting around forever while the city struggled to reach an agreement.

“Lack of money is not a problem for the bottlenecks in Wellington’s city infrastructure,” he said.

“There are large projects happening north of Wellington … and they’re all going ahead. The projects in Wellington city that could achieve those things aren’t going ahead, because the city comes to the conclusion that it doesn’t want them.”

In other words Wellington is missing out due to that lack of leadership.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he was optimistic a traffic solution would be found at the Basin that central and local government could live with, as well as the community.

But the longer those groups “muck around” finding a solution, the longer it will take to build.

The Government remained “pretty sceptical” about contributing towards Wellington Airport’s proposed $300m runway extension in light of the wrangling over the Basin, he said.

“My point is this: there’s no point whatsoever building a runway extension if you can’t get people in a taxi or a bus into the city in an efficient, streamlined way.”

If flying Wellington to Auckland, you spend more time in taxis than you do in the plane!

 

Why pay $100m for the Town Hall when you have the MFC?

May 31st, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s earthquake-prone town hall is now unlikely to reopen until 2020 – seven years after its doors shut to the public – and it may not end up being 100 per cent of building code.

Wellington City Council staff were told on Monday that the current best-case-scenario was to resume seismic strengthening of the 112-year-old building in September 2017.

The town hall, considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world, was shut in November 2013 for strengthening. But work halted three months later when the cost ballooned from $43 million to $60m. …

City councillors approved a plan last year to strengthen the town hall, along with the nearby civic administration building and central library, for $73.2m.

But while the intention in 2013 was bring the town hall up to 140 per cent of new building standards through base isolation, the goal now is to hit a minimum of 77 per cent of code.

So the price has doubled and the standard has halved!

May 2015: Council approves $96.5m worth of spending in its Long-Term Plan for the town hall strengthening and Civic Square upgrade.

That is around $10,000 per household they are spending. And the Town Hall is next door to the Michael Fowler Centre which is perfectly fine.

Coughlan says any WCC contribution to runway extension should not be a donation

May 5th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jo Coughlan announced:

Mayoral Candidate Jo Coughlan today said when it came to the airport runway extension, she would be weighing up Wellington’s long-term interest not the short-term interests of airlines. And if the city did invest, it would need to be reflected in its ownership stake in the airport, not a donation.  

“I am concerned about Wellington’s long term interest, not the short-term perspective of existing airlines. We need more long-term thinking. And we need to ensure that any investment made by the city is reflected in the city’s shareholding in the airport. It should not be a donation to the airport,“ Ms Coughlan said today.    …

“I am yet to see the business case, but on the face of it, extending the airport has merit. Of course how it gets paid for matters as well. 

In a significant policy announcement Ms Coughlan said: “In my view additional investment put into the airport extension by the city should be reflected in some way in the city’s ownership stake.  There are many ways this could potentially be achieved and I would be open to considering how the city’s investment is not seen merely as a donation,” Coughlan concluded. 

Pleased to see a Mayoral candidate saying any WCC contribution should not just be a donation. If there is to be a contribution beyond the current shareholding, then maybe it can be way of purchase of extra shares, which gives the Council a greater ownership stake.

Coughlan is also saying she wishes to double tunnel the Mt Victoria and The Terrace Tunnels. Both badly needed. We need four lanes from the airport to Levin. Having less than four lanes at any one point, means the entire network will be slowed to that point.

 

 

WCC needs new lawyers who will tell them what they want to hear

March 5th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington City Council is swapping law firms for a court battle over its living wage policy, after its usual lawyers warned it may be acting illegally.

Emails from council chief executive Kevin Lavery to councillors showed that its legal team for a judicial review was switching from DLA Piper to Simpson Grierson 

The council, which has been paying its own staff a living wage since 2013, voted in October to require its security services contractors do the same.

This was despite a report from Lavery saying DLA Piper had given legal advice that doing so could breach the the Local Government Act, which prohibits councils from paying more than necessary for services without any corresponding benefit.

They have no choice but to swap lawyers as their lawyers told them their actions would probably be illegal. They decided to ignore them and proceed anyway.

If the Council loses the judicial review, I believe the Councillors who voted to proceed against legal advice should be personally liable for the costs.

A lack of accountability

December 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A powerful and secretive panel that has spent millions in ratepayer cash with no signoff from the Wellington City Council table is being put under the microscope after the CallActive loan debacle.

The council panel was created in the wake of John Key’s comments that Wellington was dying. It promptly handed out a $300,000 loan to call centre CallActive.

Last week the Office of the Auditor-General confirmed it had received a complaint about the panel’s loan to CallActive.

The panel considers $100,000-plus proposals to the Wellington economic initiatives development fund, from which $9.4 million has been committed in two years without councillor signoff.

About $8m was committed by the panel, with chief executive Kevin Lavery deciding the remaining under-$100,000 proposals.

Councillors are updated only annually on its spending, in a report that has been slammed as “waffle”.

The two reports to date did not include comprehensive lists of recipients, how much they were given, or any economic benefits of the money spent.

This is very sub-standard.

I would expect reports at least quarterly, and full details of recipients, amounts and expected benefits.

Councillor Andy Foster said there was “general disquiet” among councillors about the panel, and the way decisions were made.

“What we’re looking for is a balance between the need for confidentiality and accountability. At the moment it veers very strongly towards confidentiality.”

These are public funds. If a recipient doesn’t want publicity, then they could of course not put their hand out for the money.

Another good example of a Councillor communicating what they have done

December 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Received this month the annual newsletter from Wellington City Councillor Nicola Young. As with last year, a good example of concise and useful reporting back to constituents:

My 2015 highlights

  • City lanes – I campaigned for Wellington’s inner city lanes to become features, rather than dark corners; it’s been talked about for years, but nothing ever happened. Eva and Leeds streets are now bursts of colour in Te Aro; Masons Lane (between The Terrace and Lambton Quay) has had a much-needed facelift; and Bond Street’s temporary makeover will now become permanent. Wellington’s CBD has about 75 lanes, and rejuvenating them is a big part of being a fun, walkable city – but also a boost for local businesses.
  • Victoria Street upgrade – this reflects the area’s transformation from light industrial to an attractive, high-density residential zone; the upgrade included a major overhaul of the street’s subterranean infrastructure. The new Whitirea / Weltec development on the corner of Cuba Mall and Dixon Street will transform the area even more.
  • St Mary of the Angels – this iconic church has some of the best acoustics in Wellington, so it’s an important venue for music performance. It’s undergoing $10million of seismic strengthening so I am delighted the Council contributed $400,000 from its Built Heritage Fund. You can see photos of the engineering works here.
  • Erskine College – I fought successfully for my old school in Island Bay to be designated a priority ‘Special Housing Area’ so it’s easier for the land to be developed.  After years of inaction, architects are now working on the plans (which preserve the glorious chapel) and construction will start late next year
  • Pandas, etc. – I will continue to fight against wasting money on fantasy projects such as the idea of renting pandas for Wellington Zoo ($400k for the business case and potentially $50million for a 10-year lease) and sponsoring professional sports teams. We need to focus on delivering the core council services things well, and not get distracted by vanity projects.
  • Civic Square revamp – It’s now almost certain the old Town Hall will become a music hub for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Victoria University’s School of Music, with the glorious council chamber returned to municipal use. The seismic strengthening work will cost over $60 million, and will be partially funded by the sale of long-term leases of the Jack Illott Green and the MFC car park.
  • Public Transport – I called for an integrated approach to our buses and trains, instead of decisions being made by WCC, Greater Wellington Regional Council, NZ Transport Association and KiwiRail. It’s likely we will have progress on streamlining this in 2016, and you can read my article in the DomPost here.
  • Cycling – I’ve pushed for more bike locking points: perhaps you’ve seen the 50 brightly coloured ‘cyclehoops’ where restricted space makes it difficult to install normal bike racks. I’ve had bike stands installed at Aro Valley’s Community Centre and at the ticket barriers at the Westpac Stadium, and I pushed for the new bike ‘corrals’ coming soon to the CBD. I support bike lanes in the CBD and neighbouring areas, but fought the Island Bay Cycleway, as it failed to meet NZTA’s funding criteria – I’ve been consistent about this: we need bike lanes where there’s most demand, not least
  • ‘Keep Kate’ – I launched a campaign to save the quirky Kate Sheppard pedestrian lights (near Parliament) when I was told nothing had been done to make their temporary permit permanent. Official Information requests proved my fears were correct, and senior Council officers thanked me – the petition meant we’d secured the lights future in the space of 18 hours after months of inaction!
  • The Wellingtonian councillor ratings – I was delighted when The Wellingtonian rated me as the second-best performing councillor and highest of the newbies – “beating many old hands”, as the paper put it. My friend Paul Eagle (Southern ward) topped the poll.

And a note for the future:

In my two years as a councillor I’ve been shocked at how much time and millions of your dollars are wasted on vanity projects and consultations that are ignored. The cost of this indecisiveness is a major contributor to this year’s average rates hike of 5.1%.

5.1% when inflation is 0.1%.

No ratepayers should not sponsor a rugby team

December 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington City Council has been asked to sponsor the Wellington Lions, however any deal could come with conditions to play more games in the community.

The Wellington Rugby Union pitched a proposal to council’s community, sport and recreation committee last week.

No, no, no. Stop finding ways to tax ratepayers more and focus on roads, rates, libraries, parks etc.

Leave sponsorship to corporates.

Bad enough they have just lost $300,000 in corporate welfare elsewhere:

Members of a small Wellington City Council panel who agreed to loan $300,000 to a call centre are keeping quiet after the business went into liquidation.

The decision to loan $300,000 of ratepayer money to Wellington business CallActive, now in liquidation, was made by a panel of only three councillors and the chief executive.

One of those on the panel was Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who refused to comment on the loan approval, but said decisions were made “with considerable debate, and taking into account the recommendation of officers”.

“That’s all I’m going to say. Goodbye.”

Well that is accountability!

Garner proposes Nick Leggett for Wellington Mayor

November 19th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes:

OK capital dwellers, here’s a tough trivia question for you.

What has Celia Wade-Brown achieved in two terms as mayor and decades on the Wellington City Council? Take your time, have a good think.

More cycleway campaigns, more ratepayer money for the arts and libraries and – maybe – a longer airport runway. That’s pretty much it after five years as mayor.

Now her council is embroiled in an unnecessary and expensive legal scrap over a ridiculous decision to pay a living wage to council contractors.

Simply put, the capital lacks leadership – and as a result is suffering from inertia.

Perhaps she was only ever an accidental mayor anyway, winning by just 176 votes in 2010 under the STV voting system.

Wade-Brown talks about projects still to come but hasn’t she had her time? Surely the city needs a fresh, dynamic leader. Consensus politics sounded like a nice idea but has proved a failure.

Wellington needs to come together, amalgamate the councils, and be more bold and ambitious.

The recent Local Government Commission proposal was probably  a step too far and drew strong opposition in Wairarapa and Hutt Valley. But Wellington, Porirua and maybe even Kapiti could easily amalgamate without unduly affecting communities.

And there’s already an heir apparent: Porirua Mayor Nick Leggett. The capital needs a shot of adrenaline – and this guy can work across party lines and he supports this kind of amalgamation.

Some very good sources tell me he is now seriously considering running in Wellington.

We do not need two mayors 20km apart. It’s ridiculous.

Leggett is popular in the northern suburbs, is a finalist in next week’s Wellingtonian of the Year awards, and boasts the biggest majority of any mayor in Porirua’s history.

Wellington can no longer wait for fresh leadership. The capital needs a unifying mayor, not a flake overseeing a stagnant pond.

Even Auckland Mayor Len Brown has finally come to the conclusion that it’s time to give up. Wade-Brown should follow suit.

I don’t think Wade-Brown will seek a third term, but time will tell.

Reddell on housing in Wellington

November 16th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A great blog post by Michael Reddell who for his sins attended a consultation meeting by Wellington City Council. He writes:

Question 1 on the WCC consultation form says “Where should medium-density housing development happen in your suburb?”, which on the one hand presumes that people agree that such development should happen at all, and on the other leaves me scratching my head thinking “well, surely on any site where someone finds it worthwhile to do so”.   And then “what standards of design should the medium-density housing meet?”, and I’m thinking “whatever works best for developers and willing buyers”.   But I’m pretty sure I was the only person in the room last night thinking anything remotely along those lines. 

Alas such views will be unknown in any Council housing department.

Instead of a focus on facilitating landowner rights, consumer choice, and competition, the whole thing flow from a central planner’s identification that Island Bay is one of those places with a strong “town centre” and hence a candidate to promote medium-density dwelling.  I was trying to work out why Island Bay is identified and not, say Seatoun –  similar public transport, similar vintage houses –  and I can only conclude that it is because the latter lacks a supermarket, an anchor of the “town centre”.  It puzzles me what happens to the Council’s logic if the(small by modern standards) supermarket were to close

Maybe they’d then knock all the new houses and apartments down!

But part of the consultation is about preparing a “plan to guide development in Island Bay town centre”.  The so-called “town centre” is perhaps 15 private shops, in a higgledy-piggledy variety of styles, several of which are threatened by the Council/government earthquake-strengthening requirements.  But why do we need bureaucrats “planning” a “town centre” to “ensure coherency across different developments and help contribute to a more attractive and vibrant centre”?    At the meeting, the bureaucrats talked of checking to ensure that “we have located the town centre in  the right place” –  to which one response might be that the market already resolved that one more than 100 years ago. 

There’s a few shops down at the Esplanade end also. If over the next 20 years it becomes a seaside resort and ends up with 20 cafes and shops, then that’s great. We don’t need to plan where town centres and shops go.

Just like the IMF the other day, the Council is keen on only “high quality” housing, but why is that something for them to decide, rather than willing buyers and sellers?

Yep.

So the Council staff were bad, but they met their match in the residents.  There was a strongly negative reaction to the notion that anyone outside Island Bay should have any say on the proposed changes – forcing staff to downplay the very suggestion.  There was a great deal of concern about protecting people’s house prices (up), but no apparent sense that allowing land to be used more intensively would, all else equal, make it more valuable not less.  There was concern about what sort of socially-undesirable people might move into these new dwellings (and this is one of the more left wing suburbs around), and so many demands for controls and restrictions that –  briefly – the Council staff were forced to defend the ideas of choice and private property rights.  One person was appalled at the idea of three storey dwellings – this is a suburb surrounded by, and partly built on, high hills.

Almost funny, if not so sad.

But the pressures to do so, and the sorts of vocal clashes I witnessed last night, arise largely because Councils are reluctant to see the physical size of the city grow.  Wellington might not have much flat land –  although most people probably don’t live on flat land in Wellington anyway –  but any time I fly in or out of the place I’m reminded that it is not short of land. 

Our city has huge amounts of land, and still close to the city centre.

Chamber suing Council

November 9th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington City Council’s decision to pay its security contractors a living wage is headed to the High Court, and ratepayers could end up paying some of the legal bills.

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce announced on Friday that it would seek a judicial review of the council’s living wage policy.

The council, which has been paying its own staff a living wage since 2013, voted 9-6 in October to require its security services contractors do the same. …

But councillors were also warned by chief executive Kevin Lavery that the move could be illegal, as the council would effectively be paying 19 per cent more than the going rate for security services without seeing any “tangible” benefit.

The council’s lawyers believed it would lose if taken to court over the issue, as the Local Government Act prohibits councils from paying more than necessary for services without any corresponding benefit.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said it did not take any great delight in heading to court, but the council needed to be held to account.

“We are taking these proceedings because we believe this decision is not prudent stewardship or efficient and effective use of ratepayer resources, 47 per cent of which is contributed by Wellington businesses.”

Delighted to see the Chamber doing this. The Council were told by their CEO and lawyers that what they intended to do was probably unlawful and would fail a lawful challenge. But instead they went ahead with their social engineering.

Deputy Mayor Justin Lester hit back and said the chamber was often silent when council spends hundreds of thousands on events like fireworks and the Santa Parade, yet it stomped its feet over a few extra dollars for workers.

The council has not considered whether it would take part in the judicial review as an interested party, or what the cost might be to ratepayers if it decided too, Lester said.

But any costs incurred would be as a result of having to respond to the chamber’s actions, he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

It’s unfortunate you ignored your own legal advice. Don’t complain when people go to court to try and ensure the Council acts within the law.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was a clear benefit to be had from paying staff a living wage.

“Decent pay and good performance are connected.”

They’re not staff, they’re contractors. Now the staff of the contractor will be paid one wage level when doing jobs for Wellington City Council and another level for other Councils. It’s barmy.

Peck retires

November 5th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Mark Peck has announced on Facebook:

I have today informed Labour Party managers for the upcoming local body elections that I will not be seeking selection to contest the Lambton Ward, or any other ward for the Wellington City Council.

I have decided to clear the decks so that good candidates can emerge to put their hands up for selection.

I will complete my term and meet my responsibilities to the Council.

I want to thank all those who have supported me during this triennium.

By the time the term is over I will have completed fifteen years of public service and it is time to pull up stumps.

It is unusual to retire after just one term on a body. It will make Lambton Ward very interesting for 2016 to see who comes through.

There’s a lot I didn’t agree with Cr Peck on, but I did like his FB post just prior to this one:

I am interested in a discussion about the reform of councillor numbers in Wellington.

Do we need 15 on council (includes the Mayor) or multi member wards?

Downsizing to 7 or 9 councillors would save in salaries alone about $1.62m over the triennium. The reason for an odd number is to make it possible on most occasions for a majority to be achieved on any issue.

One councillor per ward makes accountability fairly obvious too.

There is a tonne of literature that the ideal size for a board or council for decision making purposes is around seven to nine, with 12 being probably as big as you want to go. So I support Peck in saying a smaller Council would be a good thing.

I also have long supported single Councillor wards. I think you would get better informed voting, and with smaller wards, have Councillors better in touch with their community.

Swapping debt for building probably the best thing

October 31st, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Wellington ratepayers will never be repaid a cent of the $10 million they loaned wildlife sanctuary Zealandia for its new visitor centre.

Instead, the building will be sold to Wellington City Council for the loan amount under a proposal by Zealandia, leaving ratepayers with the keys and a multimillion-dollar debt for a centre that failed to pay for itself.

The council says the handover will not affect rates.

While Zealandia had balanced its books in recent years, it had not started to pay back the $10.38m interest-free loan as planned.

Karori Sanctuary Trust board chairwoman Denise Church said on Tuesday its small profits meant it would never be able to pay off the loan or cover its interest.

“We’re producing an operating surplus – in the last year $31,000, and the previous year $25,000. We have no capacity with those figures to pay interest on the loan or to pay it back.

“We’ve advised the council over the last two years that we don’t see that situation being likely.”

If the council took ownership of its building and exhibition space, opened in 2010, the sanctuary would lease it back, which would pay for ongoing maintenance costs.

It’s good that Zealandia has now mad a surplus for the last two years.

The visitor centre was a horribly expensive white elephant that should serve as a warning to the Council over other projects such as the airport runway, that a policy of build it and hope they come is flawed.

It is obvious Zealandia will never make enough surplus to pay back the loan. Hence the Council has three main options:

  • The status quo – loan never paid back
  • Close down Zealandia for unpaid debt
  • Swap the loan for the building

The last option seems the best (of a bad bunch).

What the WCC CEO told Councillors

October 30th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve been sent a transcript of what the Chief Executive of Wellington City Council told Councillors before they voted to impose an extra $2.4 million of costs on ratepayers by mandating security contractors must pay their staff the so called living wage. It is unbelievable that a majority of them ignored this advice.

It seems that if the Council decision is found to be unlawful, the Local Government Act allows for Councillors to be deemed to have personal liability for the costs of the unlawful decision, if they were warned it was unlawful. This could come back to bite them in a very costly way.

Here’s the statement:

Your Worship and Councillors it is a privilege to be your CEO. This is a very special City. A CEO’s job has many highlights. One of the most enjoyable is visiting staff who deliver on the front line.  In recent times I have visited the Botanic Gardens, Kilbirnie Sports Centre, the Policy and Engagement Team, City Archives and the Highways team working on the various schemes in Johnsonville. My job has a few lowlights too. You can’t have everything! One of my more difficult jobs is, very occasionally, having to tell you not what you want to hear but what you need to hear. This is one of those moments.

I have consistently advised against adopting the Living Wage. Please do not take my discomfort as a lack of concern over low pay. Last year two lifeguards in Kilbirnie Sports Centre valiantly tried to save the life of an elderly swimmer who had a heart attack in the water. Sadly the lady died but the actions of the lifeguards were praised by the coroner.  They did everything they possibly could have done to save her life but their actions were in vain. Lifeguards have a vital public safety role and sometimes they make the difference between life and death. These are really important jobs – arguably more important than mine or yours. It did not make me feel proud to discover that those two lifeguards were on the minimum wage. That was not our finest moment as a City Council.

You know officers had reservations about the Living Wage.  I will not go through these here as they have been well aired.  Notwithstanding these reservations your officers found a way to adopt the Living Wage first for Council staff and now for CCO staff. Our solution was to apply the Living Wage for workforce reasons only based on training and enhanced productivity. I have to be clear it was for workforce  reasons not to promote social equality. The latter would be unlawful.

This is crucial. Applying a “living wage” to your own staff can be justified as a legal use of ratepayer money, as it can have benefits for your own workforce. But applying it to outside contractors does not have the same rationale.

We are the only council in New Zealand to adopt the Living Wage. And we are way ahead of any other public sector organisation in the country. It makes me a little nervous being at the ‘bleeding edge’ and so far ahead of everybody else. You too should be nervous.  As officers we have been clear and straight with you. But we have also respected your right to make a decision and direct us. And we have been flexible and creative in finding a solution that has a low risk of legal challenge.

I hope that our ‘can do’ approach will be taken into account when you consider our advice on applying the Living Wage to the security contract. I know that many of you will not like this advice. Just as I respect your right to make a decision and direct me, you need to acknowledge my right and duty to give you professional advice without fear or favour.

I have consistently said that applying the Living Wage to contractors would be difficult. Each case will be different due to the nature of the work, the marketplace and our ability to bring work in-house or not. I decided to refer decisions on applying the Living Wage to individual contracts back to Council. This is because you are directing me to implement something I have major reservations about. It is therefore right and proper that you take full responsibility for your decisions.

That responsibility may include personal liability if found to be unlawful.

My decision to make the legal advice public was not taken lightly.  It is an unusual step but has happened before.  The advice is very clear cut – there’s a high risk of losing a legal challenge.

A high risk. And they went ahead.

This is the complete opposite of adopting the Living Wage for Council and CCO staff. Moreover, I am aware that there is contrary advice in the public domain that may lead you to conclude that the risks are lower than they really are. Unlike the advice in the public domain the legal advice to the Council is very specific. It is not about contractors generically or generalised savings, costs and productivity levels. It is about the WCC security tender in 2015 in New Zealand based on the actual prices and service levels offered by the preferred supplier.

So they have specific advice about this specific contract and that it is highly likely to be illegal.

But there is another, more important reason for making the advice public. If in your wisdom you decide to direct me to implement the Living Wage for the security contract you are putting me in a very difficult position as CEO.  In essence, you are asking me to implement something that is potentially unlawful.

No Governors should ever do that.

Moreover, we can expect someone to seek a judicial review should you adopt the Living Wage for the security contract. I would never, ever direct any of my employees to implement something that I know to be potentially unlawful. I have a duty as a good employer and I take it very seriously. You have that same duty towards me.  It is not a good look to direct me in the face of such clear and unequivocal advice.

Basically the Council are instructing a staffer to do something that is probably unlawful. No good employer should do that.

This changes the issue away from the Living Wage to your duties as a good employer to me. Given the seriousness of this I have taken separate legal advice about my position with another legal firm. As CEO I take my responsibilities to operate within a safe environment and the law seriously. Like you I am bound by the Local Government Act and my contract of employment with you states that I have to act within the law. The strong legal opinion before you is merely an opinion. It is not the law. A sensible compromise is to wait for the outcome of the judicial review before implementing a direction should that be forthcoming or directing me to the High Court to secure a declaratory judgement.  An implementation date of 1 July 2016 would help to give me the time to clear the legal hurdles. This is something I have discussed with the Mayor.  The legal advice to me confirms that this is a reasonable approach. This follows the spirit of your direction, protects the Council’s interests and is the correct moral path for me personally.

A sensible suggestion that they seek a court ruling on whether it is legal, before implementing it.

So my advice is simple – adopting the Living Wage for the security contract is a step too far. There is compelling evidence that you would potentially fail to meet your fiduciary duty to ratepayers. There is a serious risk that you would be acting beyond your powers. You would be purchasing the service for 19% extra without any corresponding improvement in service levels or productivity. You could also set a precedent for other contracts which would cost the Council tens of millions annually.  You would also be failing in your duty to me as a good employer. And you run the risk of tarnishing your reputation.  Could a responsible public body really make a decision against clear legal and officer advice only to be directed by a Court to reverse its decision? There is also a very real risk that your enthusiasm for expanding the Living Wage could undermine the good progress achieved with our own workforce. Remember that the WCC Living Wage adopted for our own staff and CCO staff has not been tested in a court of law. A successful judicial review on the expansion of the Living Wage to contractors may encourage further challenges on its adoption for our own workforce. A defeat here would have very serious consequences as the decision has already been implemented.

So it isn’t just $2.4 million more for this one contract. It could lead to tens of millions of extra costs over all contracts.

Mayor and Councillors I stand before you reluctantly with a very serious and loud alarm bell. My advice is to take heed of it, be responsible and support the officer recommendation.

They didn’t.

And here is why those Councillors may be in real trouble:

Local Government Act 2002

44   Report by Auditor-General on loss incurred by local authority

(1) For the purposes of this section and sections 45 and 46, a local authority is to be regarded as having incurred a loss to the extent that any of the following actions and omissions has occurred and the local authority has not been fully compensated for the action or omission concerned:

(a)money belonging to, or administrable by, a local authority has been unlawfully expended; or

(b)an asset has been unlawfully sold or otherwise disposed of by the local authority; or

(c)a liability has been unlawfully incurred by the local authority; or

(d)a local authority has intentionally or negligently failed to enforce the collection of money it is lawfully entitled to receive.

(2) If the Auditor-General is satisfied that a local authority has incurred a loss, the Auditor-General may make a report on the loss to the local authority, and may include in the report any recommendations in relation to the recovery of the loss or the prevention of further loss that the Auditor-General thinks fit.

(3) The Auditor-General must send copies of the report to the Minister and every member of the local authority.

46   Members of local authority liable for loss

(1)If the Auditor-General has made a report on a loss to a local authority under section 44, then, without limiting any other person’s liability for the loss, the loss is recoverable as a debt due to the Crown from each member of the local authority jointly and severally.

(2)If the members of the local authority or any other person or persons do not pay the amount of the loss to the Crown or the local authority within a reasonable time, the Crown may commence proceedings to recover the loss from any or all of those members.

(3)Any amount recovered by the Crown under subsection (2), less all costs incurred by the Crown in respect of the recovery, must be paid by the Crown to the local authority concerned.

(4)It is a defence to any proceedings under subsection (2) if the defendant proves that the act or failure to act resulting in the loss occurred

(a)without the defendant’s knowledge; or

(b)with the defendant’s knowledge but against the defendant’s protest made at or before the time when the loss occurred; or

(c)contrary to the manner in which the defendant voted on the issue at a meeting of the local authority; or

(d)in circumstances where, although being a party to the act or failure to act, the defendant acted in good faith and in reliance on reports, statements, financial data, or other information prepared or supplied, or on professional or expert advice given, by any of the following persons:

(i)an employee of the local authority whom the defendant believed on reasonable grounds to be reliable and competent in relation to the matters concerned:

(ii)a professional adviser or expert in relation to matters that the defendant believed on reasonable grounds to be within the person’s professional or expert competence.

So the Councillors who voted against are okay. But the Councillors who voted for this policy could be in real trouble as they went against the advice of their chief executive and against legal advice so (i) and (ii) don’t apply. If a court finds this unlawful, I believe that there will be an attempt to seek the “loss” from individual councillors personally.

And having ignored their own Council’s legal advice, they can’t expect the Council to defend them in court. They’ll have to pay for their own lawyers, if the decision is found to be unlawful and they are pursued for the loss.

Wellington City Council does the big FU to ratepayers

October 29th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington City Council is sticking to its guns on the living wage – a move that could cost it an extra $2.4 million and expose it to costly legal action.

The council, which has been paying its own staff a living wage since 2013, took the bold step on Wednesday of requiring contractors who provide its security services to do the same.

In doing so, it flew in the face of warnings from its own officers and chief executive Kevin Lavery that it would effectively be paying $2.4m, or 19 per cent, more than the going rate for guarding, noise control and cash collection services over the seven-year life of the security contract without seeing any extra benefit.

This is nuts. They’ve basically forcing ratepayers to fund their social engineering where an Anglican priest in the Hutt decides how much security contractors should be paid.

Lavery did not mince words at Wednesday’s council meeting.

He told councillors they were asking him to implement something the council’s lawyers felt was illegal, as the Local Government Act prohibits councils from paying more than they need too for services without any corresponding benefit.

There was a very real risk the council could be taken to court, and could lose, he said.

So the Councillors ignored the legal advice, because hey if they get taken to court they won’t have to pay – ratepayers will.

I hope the Chamber of Commerce does take the Council to court and seek a ruling they have acted illegally.

HOW THEY VOTED

For: Celia Wade-Brown, Justin Lester, Sarah Free, Iona Pannett, Helene Ritchie, Ray Ahipene-Mercer, David Lee, Paul Eagle, Mark Peck.

Against: Andy Foster, Jo Coughlan, Simon Woolf, Simon Marsh, Nicola Young, Malcolm Sparrow.

Remember the for names when you get your rates bill.

Is the living wage illegal

October 28th, 2015 at 7:07 am by David Farrar

The Wellington Chamber of Commerce states:

Wellington Chamber of Commerce is calling on the Wellington City Council to drop its flawed Living Wage proposal after its own legal advice said the changes would not be within the law.

The council’s own advice says “the Council is at risk of being found to have acted outside of the purpose of local government as set out by sections 10 and 11 of Local Government Act” and that the changes would be unlawful because “the increased cost that arises as a consequence of the living wage should allow for a corresponding increase in the quality or effectiveness of the particular service being provided.”

Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive John Milford says the council must take heed of its own legal advice.

“The Chamber has said from the start that the council’s pursuit of the Living Wage is an ideologically driven decision. The council has a duty to ratepayers to deliver services in a way that is most cost-effective for households and businesses. This is their clear legal obligation under the Local Government Act.

If the Council doesn’t change its policy, then maybe the issue should be tested in court?

“The council’s own paper notes that for just the one security contract alone ‘requiring a living wage to be paid would create a significant cost to the Council. The increase is estimated to be more than $2.4 million across the life of the contract of seven years …and the cost to the Council is likely to be approximately a 19% increase on the total contract price.’

“Council needs to stop playing feel-good games with ratepayer funds and focus on the things that will actually deliver more jobs and opportunities for Wellington.

You have Councillors forcing ratepayers to pay a so called living wage, yet refusing to do so in their own business.

Plus it is daft to outsource your wages policy to an Anglican priest living in the Hutt. They’ve basically said they will pay their staff whatever he tells them they should pay! And even when he changes the methodology, they still go along!

“The decision to force third-party contractors to implement the so-called Living Wage or face losing the council’s business is most concerning. That not only puts Wellington jobs and businesses at risk, it goes well beyond the council’s authority.

“The Living Wage’s methodology has repeatedly been shown as flawed.

“Wage increases should be about performance and productivity. This is not what the Living Wage is based on. Real wage increases cannot be created by the stroke of a pen.

Yep.

Zoo doesn’t even want pandas

October 19th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Bringing pandas to the capital would be “playing with fire”, Wellington Zoo’s chief executive says.

Official documents reveal chief executive Karen Fifield suggested snow leopards were a safer option after a meeting with the chief executive at Taronga Zoo in Sydney left her uncomfortable with acquiring pandas. …

Fifield, in an email in March to Kaine Thompson, manager of the Wellington City Council’s chief executive office, wrote that her meeting in Sydney had resulted in a conversation she didn’t really want to hear.

“It was not a good story at all – without central government committing to lots of the ongoing costs, I think I am playing with fire with the zoo’s future if we proceed.” 

She said Taronga was not pushing ahead with getting pandas because of the financial risk beyond the first 18 months.

“They did their own feasibility study and talked to all the US zoos which hold giant pandas. In fact San Diego Zoo tried to give theirs back to China due to ever-increasing costs, but China refused to take them,” she wrote.

“Taronga predicts [capital expense] of $23m plus … and they predict they would be $2m per annum in the red for [operating expense] beyond 18 months.”

The Council should listen to the zoo chief executive and drop the idea.

Shelly Bay open for housing

October 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Sausalito here we come.

Wellington City councillors have voted to remove much of the red tape that could have held up efforts to reshape Shelly Bay into the capital’s version of San Francisco’s seaside town of Sausalito.

But not everyone on the council’s Transport and Urban Development Committee was thrilled about the plans, with some upset by the prospect of sacrificing Shelly Bay’s green space to residential developers.

Committee members voted by a majority of nine to six on Thursday to add a larger chunk of the prime waterfront site on Miramar Peninsula to the Wellington Housing Accord.

Doing so means a 2.8 hectare slice of Shelly Bay – including the former air force and naval buildings and the slopes overlooking the harbour – will become a special housing area, which allows for fast-tracked consents, no public notification and limited appeal rights.

Great to see some action after two decades of decay.

Shelly Bay could become some of the most desirable property in Wellington. Stunning views.

It is good news for property developer Ian Cassels and the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust who have been vocal about their plans to model Shelly Bay on Sausalito – an artistic enclave that is a short ferry ride from San Francisco.

They have not revealed the specifics of their plans. But art galleries, restaurants, boutique shops, a craft brewery, a cable car and a regular ferry service from Wellington’s CBD are all in the mix.

Will be so good to replace the crumbling buildings currently there.

Cycleways for Wellington

September 10th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

After plenty of big talk about changing the face of cycling in Wellington, the council has written a big cheque to match.

The Wellington City Council has agreed to spend $101 million on new cycle lanes across the capital over the next 20 years, with $30m being spent in the first three years to really get the programme going.

Wellington’s ‘Master Plan’ for cycling, which was approved by the council’s transport and urban development committee on Wednesday, identifies the CBD, eastern suburbs and the route between the railway station and Ngauranga as the first areas for development.

Cycling in Wellington at present is not massively different from playing Russian Roulette – albeit with slightly better odds.

Hutt Rd was the only real option for reaching Ngauranga, while Kent and Cambridge terraces, Tory St, Taranaki St, Victoria St, Cuba St, Karo Drive, Willis St and the waterfront would all feature in the CBD conversation, he said.

Please, please have the Hutt Road cycleway actually link all the way up to Petone, not stop 300 metres short as it currently does.

12602387

Looks a decent plan.

Who’s right?

August 5th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A Wellington man watched in tears as Wellington City Council demolished his historic Owhiro Bay bach on Monday morning.

Duncan Mackay’s bach is one of five that have perched on the hill at Mestanes Bay, on the wild south coast of Wellington, near Red Rocks, for as long as 100 years.

He bought his Heritage New Zealand-listed Stevenson bach for $10,000 in March 2012, lived in it for two years, and was renovating it to live in and, one day, pass on to his 13-year-old daughter.

But on Friday, the council told him it was going to demolish the bach on Monday, claiming his $40,000 of renovations meant it was no longer entitled to be considered a heritage building.

On Monday morning, Mackay drove around the coast to see his bach being torn apart, the roof gone, men in high-vis jackets breaking down the interior.

“This is crushing me,” he said as he looked on, tears in his eyes.

“I wanted  to pass it down through the family … Now I’m homeless, I’m literally sleeping on a friend’s couch.”

You read this part of the story and you think the Council has acted appallingly. But you then read on:

Not much of the original materials of Stevenson’s bach remained, but Mackay said he had been in regular contact with Heritage NZ and was replacing everything so it looked “absolutely, totally the same”, down to its pine-green corrugated-iron exterior and the angle of the roof.

“I’ve done what I was told to do. I think this is council squashing the small guy and destroying a piece of south-coast heritage.”

But the council, which owns the land, said the work bore no resemblance to the heritage bach.

“He did have possession of a heritage bach on the site, and he demolished the heritage bach and now is illegally building a new bach on the site,” council spokesman Richard MacLean said.

“We are having it demolished because it’s on public land and we are the landowner, and he’s illegally building on public land…”

Mackay would not be compensated, MacLean confirmed.

The other Mestanes Bay bach owners, who had also made significant renovations, should not be concerned because the council still considered their properties “heritage baches”.

“They are still substantially original buildings ,” MacLean said. “He [Mackay] has demolished his bach, that’s what that big pile of broken wood is.”

He said Mackay was not homeless, as he lived elsewhere in Wellington. The bach was a building site and was uninhabitable anyway.

I’m not sure the Council is in the wrong here. There is a difference between renovation and replacement.

A smoke free waterfront

May 19th, 2015 at 2:15 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Smoking a cigarette while enjoying a beer outside one of Wellington’s waterfront bars could soon become a thing of the past.

A proposal to make the waterfront and Civic Square smokefree will be brought before Wellington City Council on Wednesday night, after the Public Health Association called on the council to show leadership on the matter.

If successful, the smoking ban could be in place by the end of the year.

But the owner of waterfront bar St Johns has condemned the move as discriminatory against smokers and businesses, and says if smoking is to be banned in one place, it should be banned everywhere.

Will it reduce smoking, or will it just mean smokers go to other bars?

The ban on smoking inside bars worked because it applied to every bar, and the justification was that staff and other patrons were being exposed to second hand smoke. I love the fact that I can now go to a bar and not be exposed to smoke. But this isn’t about protecting people from passive smoking.

But Trinity Group director Jeremy Smith, whose businesses include St Johns, called the move  “crazy” and “discriminatory”.

Smoke was not a problem on the waterfront, as outdoor areas were large and smoke was swiftly blown away. It was unfair to drive away people who chose to partake in a legal activity, he said.

I agree with Jeremy Smith. There are some bars whose outdoor areas are unpleasant as they are largely enclosed, and stink of smoke. But waterfront bars do not have that issue – I’ve never ever been affected by smoke in the outdoor areas of waterfront bars – because they are so open and large.

If a ban was to be introduced, it should be city-wide. “It’s just another nail in the bar/restaurant coffin in terms of driving people away from areas where they can socialise.”

It is unfair to have it apply to only those bars.

Asked what the impact on smokers at waterfront bars would be, Lester said: “They won’t be able to smoke.

“It’s a benefit, it’s a privilege, to operate a business down there … I don’t think it’s a big ask.”

A privilege? Don’t they pay rents and rates? Isn’t being able to operate a business a right, not a privilege someone gives you?

Wellington City Councillor ratings

March 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Wellingtonian has had an 8 member panel of Wellingtonians rate the 15 Wellington City Councillors. They were rated on five areas, and also given an average overall rating. So who got top and bottom in each.

Note that these ratings are of course the opinions of the panelists only.

Overall Top

  1. Paul Eagle 80.7%
  2. Nicola Young 69.8%
  3. Justin Lester 69.4%

Overall Bottom

  1. Helen Ritchie 34.3%
  2. Ray Ahipene-Mercer 44.5%
  3. Jo Coughlan 46.5%

Top Accessibility

  1. Paul Eagle 84.3%
  2. Justin Lester 80.0%
  3. Celia Wade-Brown 78.1%

Bottom Accessibility

  1. Helene Ritchie 38.3%
  2. Ray Ahipene-Mercer 42.9%
  3. Malcolm Sparrow 51.0%

Top Effectiveness

  1. Paul Eagle 75.7%
  2. Iona Pannett 66.3%
  3. Nicola Young 63.1%

Bottom Effectiveness

  1. Helene Ritchie 30.0%
  2. Mark Peck 38.6%
  3. Ray Ahipene-Mercer 40.0%

Top Proactiveness

  1. Paul Eagle 77.1%
  2. Iona Pannett 68.1%
  3. Nicola Young 65.6%

Bottom Proactiveness

  1. Helene Ritchie 33.6%
  2. Sarah Free 35.8%
  3. Ray Ahipene-Mercer 37.1%

Top Work Ethic

  1. Celia Wade-Brown 90.0%
  2. Paul Eagle 87.9%
  3. Justin Lester 81.3%

Bottom Work Ethic

  1. Helene Ritchie 36.7%
  2. Ray Ahipene-Mercer 46.7%
  3. Jo Coughlan 48.8%

Top Wellington First

  1. Paul Eagle 80.7%
  2. Simon Woolf 75.7%
  3. Simon Marsh 70.0%

UPDATE: The panel were:

  • John Milford, Business Central CEO
  • Allan Probert, Khandallah Business Improvement District secretary & veterinarian
  • Lyndy McIntyre, Living Wage Wellington co-ordinator
  • John Dow, events, marketing & sports leader
  • Victoria Spackman, Gibson Group CEO & former chairman of Bats Theatre
  • John Sherwan, Adjunct professor at VUW/businessman
  • Jack Marshall, Wgton City Youth Council chairman
  • Ian Apperley, Strathmore Park blogger

Peck vs his own Council

February 4th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Former Labour MP Mark Peck is a Wellington City Councillor. He is best known for voting to force the Council to pay a so called living wage to all Council employees, yet refusing to pay it to his own staff on the basis he can’t afford it.

Once again he seems to be conflicted between his role as a business (cafe) owner and a Councillor.

The Council has put in a temporary pop up on Bond Street.

blogger-image--871039385

This photo is from Blandforddaily, taken by AnnaB.

Looks pretty cool.

Cr Peck said on Facebook:

“Pop-up feel-good” unwelcome subsidy against hardworking business owners!

Wellington City Councillor Mark Peck says he has been contacted by some retailers who are angry that the “pop-up feel good” in Bond Street is an unwelcome attack on their ability to trade and discriminatory in the extreme.

Spending $100K of ratepayers’ money to temporarily enhance Bond Street with a pop-up display makes fish of them and fowl of the rest, he said. There is a strong call for everyone to be treated the same.

Using this logic, there would be no Cuba Mall developments, or basically anything at all that enhances a retail area.

Now Cr Peck owns a cafe just around the corner from Bond Street, in Dukes Arcade. Despite his disclaimer, it seems clear he is advocating on his own behalf, but using his role as a Councillor.

Comments on Facebook were not very supportive:

A real shame you’ve taken this angle Mark. I’ve been to the pop-up and it’s brilliant – I’ve never seen so many people on Bond Street. Great council initiative and clearly serving rate payers and visitors well.

Of course it’s Council’s job to get invo
lved, provide social spaces, beautify the CBD and, yes, help business development. There can’t be a popup over the entire city and a dark, dead end with a majority of small businesses (exception of the Mojo chain) is a great place to have it. To places like the Rockshop – what a shame they are on an already busy street which didn’t need a “pop-up”.

This inner city resident who has you as a councillor and helped run your campaign would be thrilled if you perhaps stood up for residents before businesses.

That’s a member of his own campaign team!

Our streetscapes should be as exciting and vibrant as our city aspires to be, and as it often achieves. It’s excellent to see spaces like Bond Street experiencing this treatment. …

So would you prefer full-time polkadots, or none at all? Both are absurd, and it’s clear you’d have preferred none at all. I’m not entirely sure what your post achieves other than making you appear as a bit of a grump. Wellington’s retail sector is doing terribly. Yeah, Bond St benefits. That’s great. Where in your post is a plan or advocacy for the other businesses you’re saying you’re representing? Where’s the recognition that the positive news, albeit made weird by Ritchie, translates to good national advertising as Wellington as a happening and exciting place? It seems to me that these events are an obvious strategy for our city, so if you were speaking on behalf of our businesses then shouldn’t your position be “more”, not “less”? …

They money is also spent now, Mark, so it would be a waste to take it down immediately. And just dumb. In all of your media release, there isn’t thought at all to the people of Wellington – and I’ve only heard positive comments so far from people about the pop up ideas. I haven’t been down to Bond Street yet but looks pretty fun to me. …

Firstly I love the look – and what it’s done to the dark, often forgotten little street. I remember around six years ago when Dale from Mojo and Ian McKinnon were first talking about making something happen – so the idea has been brewing – and needed for some time. Looking beyond Bond Street the new activity is helping pull people through to traders like Man to Man and others who also feel out on a limb sometimes, I felt proud when I walked down the street today and saw what was happening because it’s pretty damn cool the city has made this happen. …

A real own goal.

$60 million too much for town hall upgrade

December 11th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Wellington faces a large earthquake-strengthening bill for many of its best-known buildings, none more so than the Town Hall.

Work on the ornate municipal building ground to a stop earlier this year after the projected cost ballooned to $60 million. When first mooted in 2011, it had been supposed to cost $34m. That hike saw some Wellington City Council leaders question whether saving the building was worth it.

We are a small city of just 75,000 ratepayers. The cost is likely to end up at around $1,000 per ratepayer. That is way too much.

WCC proposes 4.5% rates increases

December 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A $200 million war chest is being planned to fund Wellington’s big-ticket wish list over the next 10 years.

The stash of cash forms a key prong in mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s draft Long-Term Plan proposal, which she will present to councillors at a committee meeting next week.

The money – targeted for projects including the airport runway extension, a film museum and a new concert venue – would see an average rates increase of 3.9 per cent over the 10 years of the plan, compared with a 3.1 per cent rise if a status quo approach was taken instead.

Those increases would be “front loaded”, the mayor said – meaning ratepayers will feel the pinch immediately, with rises of about 4.5 per cent in each of the next three years.

Inflation is running at around 1%. A series of rates increases at four times the inflation rate is a Council with a spending problem.