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Chief Executive's Report - 27 November

Readers may have been puzzled by my reference in the previous post to the deliberate 'blurring' of governance and executive roles within our Council. 

Almost as confirmation of this state of affairs comes an entry in the CE Report for next weeks Council Meeting as follows:

"2015-2025 Long Term Plan (Strategic Planning Team)
With new responsibilities of the Mayor, a new group has been formed called Mayor Plus, that will help to set direction and identify key work streams for the next Long Term Plan. The Mayor now has responsibility to lead the development of Council's plans, policies and budgets. (my bold) In doing so, the Mayor will be supported by the Deputy Mayor, the Chief Executive, and Project Management staff. The Chief Executive is the internal project sponsor. Additionally, other Council Committees (this includes a new
Policy Committee) within Council will have delegation to consider key issues and directions with presentations on the direction given by the Mayor Plus committee."
This is a staggering demonstration as to just how 'hands on' our Mayor has become in determining the future course of this District - he clearly no longer trusts the bureaucrats to produce the plans for Council to determine. But it is contrary to local government 'best practice', and constitutes a huge risk as the entire TYP process is controlled through the Mayor and his Deputy. Clearly, the Chief Executive, and his top staff are powerless and mere pawns in this process.
Of course there are people who will say that this is a great way to go, and an expression of the democratic process at work. But unfortunately, long experience has taught us that this signals the beginning of a dictatorship, and removal of the checks and balances that have been built into the planning process over generations of local government. It is demoralising and demeaning as inexperienced elected officers involve themselves in the executive planning, and initiating of policy. Go to any textbook on the division of powers in order to confirm what I am saying - it is entirely inappropriate, and an indication as to the lengths to which our Mayor is prepared to go in order to accumulate all the levers of power in his his burly grasp.
I hope that the Council as a whole rejects this move, but hold out no hope that this will be the case - they will do as they are told, as usual. 



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Reader Comments (2)

Bill, the new provisions of the LGA have given Mayors responsibility for determining budgets and LTP's as is the case in the SuperCity. These new powers/responsibilities emulate the American model where the Mayor does run the town, finances, appointments, projects etc, and staff do what they are told. Hopefully a Mayor is a smart enough manager to get people around him/her who have skills in areas he/she doesn't. Inevitably Arnold Schwarzenegger gets elected and runs the area he governs broke, or the bureaucrats he is supposed to control do. Forming a management group is not a bad idea if the people who know about stuff are listened to. Or it may provide a something to blame when/if things go wrong. Ideally the Mayor can now get the cost saving measures identified in the last term, but not yet put in place, locked and loaded. There is no way around it, the buck stops at the Mayor's desk. Councils around the country have competed to have the biggest debt to ratepayers ratio, and places like Tauranga, Hastings, and Kaipara have citizens smart enough to call a halt to generally poor management by both staff and elected representatives. The central government view, on all sides, is let them sort it out themselves. TCDC has few people in the region with the skill to wrangle the Council staff and budgets, and none are prepared to put themselves forward as either Mayor, Councilor or Staff member. Why take on a poorly paid job, with everyone who wants to bleat on your phone, text, email and doorstep. Mayor Leach has discovered just how demanding this is. Council staff come in for a bit of it too.
The petty stuff distracts the Mayor from the big problem, the credit card is maxed out, the revenues are down because the local economy isn't generating any, and 'tell me what I want to hear' financial reporting hides the true financial position.
Unloading the Regional Burden by becoming a Unitary Authority won't work without a bigger footprint and at the moment no one else wants TCDC because of the debt level. Hastings has the same problem in Hawkes Bay.
We need strong financial management, which we don't have now, we need a more ruthless reaming out of projects and people, and we need to do a better job of communicating with the ratepayers rather then listening to vocal minorities with vested interests. Spending time changing the things that can be changed instead of tilting at windmills will see the local economy recover but it ain't going to be quick!

November 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Good comment Robert - you are quite correct of coure - my well known prediliction for seeing ulterior motive where none exists has led to my over-egging the Mayor's role in this move. It will be interesting to see how other councils have handles it nevertheless - I will have a look a few web-sites. I don't think we realised just how far-reaching these changes would be - it is whole new ball-game really, and Mayoral powers have become all-encompassing. There is a great deal more water to go under the bridge before we understand just how far reaching these end up.

November 25, 2013 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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