Larry Mitchell's Monstering
Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 12:41PM
Bill Barclay

One of the recurring themes of council life is the annual emergence of the famous Larry Mitchell “Independent Performance Tables” on just how councils have performed in regard to their financial sustainability, and affordability of rates and charges.

“It demonstrates that HDC has performed well in what has been a difficult economic climate” claims Mayor John Tregidga in regard to his Council’s “race up the league table” (HH 22 March) from 39 to 20 out of 67. Mayor Leach presumably won’t be far behind lauding TCDC’s rise from 33 to 27. But no–one appears to question just how Mt Mitchell arrives at these results, let alone his clever manipulation of subsequent publicity.

The basis of the “independent” assessment remains opaque, and Mr Mitchell’s methodology has been called into question on a number of occasions – notably by TCDC’s own Financial Controller – Steve Baker following an earlier dump down the list. This reflects the general reaction by both council staff and elected officials depending on the direction councils move each year. It is perhaps instructive that councils on the move up are persuaded to outlay the $2,500 plus that Mr Mitchell charges for even a peek at his ‘Tables”, while those on the way down are appear reluctant to pay, and scornful of the results. 

These reactions are quite predictable, and while John Tregidga’s desire to hop on the band-wagon in an election year and point to his “hard working councillors and council staff,” is understandable, scepticism is called for. This particularly when one considers TCDC’s recent substantial increase in projected debt in order to cover an unplanned reduction in revenue, together with other adverse indicators – obviously too late for consideration by Mr Mitchell.

While mystery surrounds the methodology, and the apparent  absence of any kind of peer review of Mitchell’s work, a little more circumspection is called for and a little less ‘band-wagon’ hopping by our Mayors. For once, Mayor Leach’s delayed reaction may put him in a better light than his erstwhile colleague – crowing rooster one day, cooked chook the next! Then again, he has probably been warned of the consequences of being too keen to claim kudos from this particular ‘survey’ - next year’s results may not be quite as kind.




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