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Council Responds to False Stats. (at last!)

Four days after the Star Times article, and two days following the Hauraki Herald reprint, the TCDC spinners have finally emerged from their slumber, and put out a response:

The highest rates per-capita in NZ? It's just a statistical illusion

While the Council is more than on track to keep future rate increases well below inflation, starting with the average -1% decrease this year, the recent statistics released as part of the "Better Local Government" reforms have completely ignored our residents that own property here, but who don't reside here permanently.

The net effect of this exclusion by Government officials is to create the illusion that we have the highest rates per-capita in NZ.

Our own analysis also concludes that many 'city rates' have failed to include water rates, which also enhances the illusion that rates are more affordable in large metropolitan areas.

 Here's the real story.

- When we add our non-permanent residents to our district's population, rates per-capita changes from $2,086 to approximately $789 (cheaper than most cities).

- We are the 13th largest Council by revenue (out of 76 Councils).

- We have the 4th lowest average 'rate increase' track record in NZ.

- The Government wants debt as a percentage of operating revenue to be under 10%. We sit at 5%.

- The Government wants employee costs to sit no higher than 23% of operating expenditure. We are at only 17%.

"It's worth noting that none of these figures include the savings currently being worked on by the Council through the budget revision project and the organisational review" said Mayor Glenn Leach.

"The statistics released by the Government are not right and we're not the only Council that thinks so. However, we're still not satisfied with where our rates are at and we're working damn hard right now to make them more affordable".

"We also believe we can pull more money out of some projects in the draft Ten Year Plan and still get them done, which will also create positive movements on the balance sheet".

The figures don't quite equate with those that I produced, ($789 per capita, against $1,192) after all they have access to far greater range of information than I - the discrepancy probably occurs because they are able to split the residential  from the total rating unit base.

As usual, no credit is given to previous councils for having achieved these impressive, but often misread statistics long before the current crew arrived on the scene. More importantly, note the TCDC employee expenditure sits at 17% of operating expenditure against the Government recommended upper limit of no more than 23%. Those 43 who are apparently about to lose their jobs could be forgiven for asking why?

It will be interesting to see if the HH takes the trouble to print a retraction of its sensationalist headline story on TCDC having "the Highest Rates in NZ". The PR may just make the HH deadline, but there is an inherant reluctance in all Fairfax units to avoid retractions at all costs - 'we print, and therefore it must be true' is the maxim. 

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Reader Comments (3)

"if none of these figures include the savings currently ---" Glen "throw a blanket over Thames and choke it" Leach then why are the council down sizing staff --after all staff are 'only 17% of current operating costs' - well below the recommended figure of 23% - in fact the wage account was only 15% of the rate take - somebody is not telling the truth here. I t would also be nice to acknowledge the previous two Councils who worked very hard to keep rates/costs down, yet still providing the services people came to expect and needed - best not to hold my breath on that thought!!
And what of the new CEO's proclaimation - words to the effect that TCDC rates were 14% above National average - oh dear -$789 per ratepayer 'cheaper than most Cities' - cheaper I would venture than most Councils in NZ
How many Councils in NZ have 10 wastewater plants and 11 water treatment plants?? - not many I would venture - how many days in a year has a ratepayer in this District not had potable water at a tap [those on a supplied system] or not been able to flush a toilet -[also on a supplied system] or not been able to drive on a Council road or not had their rubbish picked up - or the parks and reserves mown - [though not so sure with these pending cuts in the 10 year plan whether the level of service will not diminish} -so why are the Mayor and new CEO giving out one set of figures earlier and now defending another set which is opposite - never let the facts get in the way of a good story!!
Maybe it is about time Hammond and Leach gave us the truth about staff redundancies - stop fooling around with peoples feelings and upsetting families, destroying the social fabric of our Council/ communities and driving away good staff [ I understand other staff, over and above the 43 are now looking for employment elsewhere] --and more jobs are going out to contract - staff now, who have worked at Council ,are now contracting their services back to Council - where will it all end?? -in tears I predict- would the last person leaving the Council building please turn out the lights

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEt Tu Brute

My mates on this side - [the other side] tell me that when the old CEO would visit our local ratepayers group he would tell them that successive Ministers of Local Govrt would say " you need to borrow more - you have the asset backing- borrow and build what you need " the future ratepayers will pay - it was called intergenerational debt. This comment was backed up by the Opposition spokesperson each time- in one year that was apparently John Key!!
then he reminded me of the time when the plebs got up in arms about rate increases - so the Central Govrt called in an old mate to lead a inquirey into rates and their costs - it was called the Shand Report apparently and it also said -"borrow, borrow' - and now Hon. Nick Smith says - 'hang on - debt is increasing too fast" [oops sorry he has gone!] - anyway before he went that Key fellow said borrowing was ok if it was for 'public good' - what ever that is - apparently John Key remembered the 'cycle ways' he had promoted-- and then Government told Councils they had to pay the short fall - which as they were unbudgeted items Councils had to borrow or becomme creative accountants!
my mate reckons that at one time in the mid 2000's the proposed expenditure on Local Government 10 year plans was almost dollar for dollar with Central Govt.- some 30 billion dollars - so why worry about a paltry 8 billion now?
the thing with Central Government - when they encourage Councils to borrow they know that ratepayers have to pay - but when they borrow, tax payers have to pay ----- oops they are the same people--so lets make Councils the bad guys
If Central Government is really serious about the cost of rates to local rate payers, my mate reckons then they should take GST off rates because in his way of thinking that is a tax on a tax -but I guess Hell will freeze over before that happens.
Anyway TCDC wants to increase its borrowing limits -so watch this space - wonder what the Nats will try next - the utterances to date have been a bit of a damp squid - it would appear opportune that that Dr. Smith resigned- because what he [Smith]reckoned he would do to local councils and what finally came out was poles apart- a bit of a wet bus ticket me mate reckons- and the person who is next to be appointed Minister of Local Government has been already dealt a Hospital pass--bring it on I say

March 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCyclops

I agree with almost everything Et Tu Brute said, except the turning out the lights part. We need to put pressure on these people to wake up and conduct themselves professionally for the collective community.

Hammond must be called to account for his 14% justification vs the rosy statistics re-framed by communications manager. It doesn't balance and it doesn't wash. Obviously it's a directive from Leach - for what reason?

I also agree Bill about the HH - this type of rubbish reporting just becomes part of the negative myths people repeat to each over and over. It gets us nowhere except backwards.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBruce

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