Under the 2004-2007 Council, rates have increased 20% in three years. It plans a 26% increase over the next term. The compounding increase of 54% over 6 years is unsustainable and irresponsible. There have been price jumps in construction, and for petroleum products including roading bitumen, but these cannot explain rate increases at those levels. Household incomes are not increasing at anything remotely close to that level and therefore it is unrealistic and unfair to impose such rate increases.
This is certainly not the time for $100 million vanity projects like the proposed Council palace. In the face of cost rises, a prudent council must limit new expenditure, while maintaining infrastructure and services at a high standard.
Christchurch 2021 controlled the finances of the City Council from 1995-2004, with a track record of modest rate increases but also increased provision of services and community facilities:
A new 2021 Council will commit to reduce rate increases to the level of inflation by the end of its first term.
It will do this both (1) by cutting extravagant spending, and (2) by better scrutiny and control of the Council budget.
- There are many areas in which expenditure can be slashed. A practical solution to the current Council building dilemma will be found within a maximum cap of $60 million, rather than the current $100+ million extravagant plan. The City Mall project, meanwhile, has ballooned from $2 million to possibly $16 million. 2021 will develop a much more modest proposal for this important part of the city. Bizarre plans for a new $2 million Civil Defence HQ will be scrapped, because a modern, purpose-built facility already exists for that purpose at ECan. Under this Council, “marketing” and public relations costs have soared, with full-page newspaper advertisements used to justify unpopular decisions. It is time for belt-tightening.
- The lax approach to ratepayers’ money over the last three years is due to the Council abandoning tried-and-tested procedures for monitoring the city budget. Despite being paid as the first full-time councillors in Christchurch history, councillors no longer take active responsibility for scrutinizing expenditure and revenue. Under 2021, Councillors will work harder to justify their full-time salary. Standing committees will be re-established, including a finance committee with a chairperson responsible for its actions. The culture of extravagance must be eliminated.
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