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Saturday
Apr162011

Observations - R & F Policy Meeting

There are a number of observations that can be made regarding the all-important R & F Policy Meeting that took place yesterday. I will confine myself to three:

Credit Card Application

Our Council has just awarded itself a 'platinum' credit card with a $55m. limit to add to its existing $72m. borrowing. Spending will almost certainly be racked up on this card in the usual manner, despite promises by the Chief Executive of massive, but as yet unproven efficiencies in the works. As with most credit cards, the pain starts when the interest and minimum payment bills start to arrive through the mailbox. Then again when interest rates either edge, or rocket upwards. These costs can only be met through increased rates (or the aforementioned 'efficiencies').

The projects to be financed through the use of this card will comprise a mix of the 'feel good', but unproductive, and a few such as aquaculture infrastructure that may have an economic outcome.  The former, such as the Zoom Zone 'dry court', are required in order to satisfy election promises to small, but vocal sections of the community. Many of these 'feel good' projects will probably come to fruition prior to the next election, but the effect of the interest and depreciation on rates will probably not emerge until after the election, and that should satisfy the needs of incumbents seeking re-election. 

Rates

The decision to adopt the CPI target, and the LGCI + 2% as the maximum for future rate increases demands comment as promises were made at the election of zero rate increases by both the Mayor and several of the newly elected councillors.

Although such behaviour is par for the course in local government elections generally, this election campaign was particularly nasty with incumbents accused of incompetence, if not downright dishonesty. Now that the boot is on the other foot, it is interesting to note that even Cr. Fox expressed himself yesterday to be clear of any hint of hypocrisy "as he could not possibly have been aware of the rates situation prior to being elected", and munificent expressions of praise for previously villified staff are made at every opportunity.

Meetings

It is clear that the Mayor has bought himself a real headache by opting to invite the Board Chairs to attend all Council meetings and workshops. Yesterday's meeting ran until 6pm, and Wednesday's even later. Much of the problem occurs because of the insistence of Chairs to exercise their full speaking, if not voting rights.

Long periods of time were taken up listening to rambling dissertations of personal philosophy, and assertions of financial rectitude and knowledge of Local Government Finance 101. The time wasting was a hindrance to the transacting of the business of the meeting, but Council is now saddled with this bright innovation, and unless the Mayor develops more assertive skills in controlling these interruptions, then the meetings are fated to continue in this manner. At one stage, the Mayor expressed himself dissatisfied with these discussions having to held in open meeting - he would have much preferred a 'closed door workshop' where discussion could be 'full and frank'. So much for democratic process.

Finally, the adoption of motions was confused as Councillors appeared to show reluctance to come to grips with the actual issue under discussion. It all sorted itself out in the end, but I suspect there will be some who today have misgivings about some of the decisions, particularly on rates and borrowing that appeared to run contrary to their positions as stated during discussion.

Rate-payers will have the opportunity to partake in the public consultation on these matters in September when yesterday's decisions will have been translated into the draft LTCCP, but don't imagine for a moment that your objections will have the slightest effect unless they are numerous, and accompanied by loud protest.

 

 

 

 

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