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Friday
May132011

Empowerment

Empowerment is the word, decentralising the cause, and Board Chair Keith Johnston from Whangamata, the evangelist.

Keith advances the cause at every opportunity, and in regard to almost every subject discussed within the Chamber. He claims to have a mandate from his community to push hard to get a range of services moved from Thames to the outlying towns in order that they can become more responsive to local need.

Behind it all one can detect a desire to establish local budgets more attuned to the needs of each community, and get away from the hated oversight exercised from Thames. This is natural of course, and resonates with a number of councillors who also feel pressure from their communities to grab back control, and set their own spending parameters.

Whether such moves make economic sense is another matter. BC Johnston (a retired chartered accountant) is constantly reminding Council of his undoubted professional expertise in this area, but he not yet convincing in regard to his knowledge as to how local government works. He tends to apply commercial principles inappropriately - for instance his earlier comments in a meeting regarding treatment of reserves and internal borrowing showed a lamentable mis-understanding.

Nevertheless, his crusade to de-centralize Council functions must be taken seriously - they may be irrational, but they represent a real desire in the boon-docks to grab control, and the Chief Executive yesterday demonstrated his undoubted survival instincts by agreeing to come up with a plan within four months for Council to get its teeth into.

I fear that some of the more inexperienced councillors will be led along by the nose into this wonderful new world of de-centralised administration. It has implications for staff, and budgets, and needs to be watched very carefully.  Incidentally, it has considerable economic implications as far as Thames is concerned. Council administration comprises a substantial proportion of Thames’s economy – no one surely needs reminding of that. Watch this space – very carefully!

 

 

 

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