"Bill Barclay gets it wrong" - Mayor Glenn Leach
Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 8:07PM
Bill Barclay

Mayor Leach has put out a press release tonight denying my claim that the Council has been deceptive in the manner that it has achieved its rate reduction.

Clearly this resulted from the content of the column published today in the Peninsula Press. This was a direct re-print of my post on the subject on 12 May, in which, amongst other matters, I drew attention to the substantial and unusual $10m capital budget under-spend revealed in 28 February Accounts, presented to Council on 13 April.

This was the first indication that something was afoot in terms of postponed, or canceled capital projects, and has been born out by the list in Mayor Leach's press release that revealed $1.7m. savings in capital works during the current financial year. 

I also drew attention to the "cancelling all storm-water capital infrastructure works for the next three years".  This statement was incorrect to the extent that it was the three years commencing 1 July 2012. The error certainly gave the Mayor the opportunity to berate me in his press release for “being confused”. 

Nevertheless, the basic premise remains – the medium term savings to achieve zero rate increases will only be possible through this device rather than through any other savings that may be claimed through “staff attrition or improved internal processes”.  But Mayor Leach is correct in stating that these are only proposals at this stage, still subject to public consultation before being adopted in the LTCCP later this year.

I don’t recall making any “conspiracy insinuates (sic) that savings are being achieved by secret creative accounting and back room deals and that we were not being honest about how we are reducing the annual rate”, and challenge him to produce evidence of such.

On the other hand, I do not resile from suggesting that deception, intended or otherwise, was involved in the manner in which the plans to cancel or substantially reduce storm-water expenditure for a period of three years was well hidden from public view until revealed on page 63 of the Council Papers for the LTCCP meeting on 12 May. This not only proposes expenditure cuts of some $10m, but involves the postponement of major projects that have safety implications.

The speed with which these proposals were adopted by the meeting without any discussion indicated that they had already been agreed to behind closed doors. This is not a satisfactory way to conduct Council business, and I do not resile from my repeated criticism of this procedure.

As for Mayor Leach’s claim that “Last week Mr Barclay said that we were borrowing money to fund rate reductions, which is another fabrication, and now he has another theory this week”.

The only fabrication is that of Mayor Leach. At no time have I ever made such a claim.  I simply indicated that Council had proposed to change its long standing borrowing rule that combined internal and external borrowing should not exceed 150% of revenue. The proposed new rule is that external borrowing only is to be the benchmark for the 150% rule. This is a fundamental change that will enable Council to borrow a further $55m. over the next ten years. That is all I claimed - in my 15 April post on   Finance and Revenue in the first instance, and he has made no attempt to deny this.

I maintain that even contemplating such a change is both imprudent and unwise - a view that would appear to be supported by local government policy analyst - Larry Mitchell.

I accept and regret my error in regard to the commencement date for the proposed cancellation/postponement of storm-water capital works.  I undertake to do better in the future, but categorically deny Mayor Leach’s other claims. I trust that he will attempt to do likewise - he could start by conducting all council business in open meeting, as he is required to do under the Local Government Act unless there are specific and legitimate reasons for not doing so, as stipulated under the Act.




Article originally appeared on BillBarcBlog (http://billbarclay.co.nz/).
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