An alternate budget that slashes the Christchurch City Council’s work programme and avoids the need for strategic asset sales is being touted as the answer to the city’s financial woes.
The Common Sense Plan for Christchurch was released at the weekend by the six Labour-aligned People’s Choice councillors and is aimed at circumventing the need for the council to sell shares in Lyttelton Port, Christchurch International Airport Ltd, Orion and Enable.
Its release comes less than 10 days out from the closure of public submissions on the Christchurch City Council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) which includes provision to sell up to $750 million in assets in order to plug the council’s $1.2 billion funding shortfall.
The People’s Choice councillors – Andrew Turner, Phil Clearwater, Yani Johanson, Glenn Livingstone, Pauline Cotter and Jimmy Chen – voted against including asset sales in the draft LTP and have been desperate to find another way to balance the books.
They propose cutting $700 million, or 15 per cent, from the council’s $4.6 billion 10-year capital works programme outlined in the draft Long Term Plan (LTP) by deferring all non-urgent work, including construction of the city’s planned new rugby stadium.
They also propose asking the Government to use the $37m it has allocated for the new stadium on road repairs and propose asking for another $180m in Government funding for the horizontal infrastructure repair programme.
I’m all for cutting spending. That part of the proposal is good.
However their balanced budget is dependent on waving a magical wand and the Government handing over $217 million. That’s not common sense. That is wishful thinking. The Government has a signed and sealed agreement with the CCC as to how much it will contribute.
Alternative budgets are a good thing if they genuinely propose alternatives such as deferred spending, or different revenue streams – so long as they are revenue streams that the Council can actually use.
This is not an alternative budget. It is a plea for a Government bailout.