Wayne Bradshaw, Hastings Councillor: Budget Reform

Last Thursday and Friday, the HDC Councillors with the assistance of management were presented with the Draft Budgets for the 2008/9 year.

We as a Council with management’s assistance were expected to:

  • Review these Budgets (there are over 100 Cost Centres within Council),
  • Analyse and Prioritise the spending,
  • Find potential savings.
  • And then agree on the Final Rating requirement/increase that would be presented to the ratepayers in the Draft 2008/9 Annual Plan for their consultation.

After an intense two days a Rate Increase of 5.4% was agreed upon; this wasn’t too bad after having started at a potential 8.4 %.

My personal target was 4.0 %.

As a new Councillor, I found this process very interesting.

Here we were as Councillors, expected over a two day period to make decisions about the Council’s Finances for the 2008/9 year and beyond.

Let’s put this in context. The Hastings District Council is a business that has:

  • Annual Turnover of over $ 80 m.( rates included )
  • Total Rates Levied of $ 53 m.
  • Staff of over 350.
  • Annual Payroll of over $ 20m.
  • Debt of $ 88m @ 30/6/08
  • Budgeted Debt to rise to $ 108m by 30/6/09.

There must be a BETTER WAY to ensure that the Ratepayers get the best for their dollar.

I believe that the Councillors need to work more closely with the new CEO and management on understanding the requirements, the level of service desired and cost implications for the ratepayers. This could be achieved by regularly consulting with the ratepayers, transparent and understandable reporting, and the formation of an internal working party comprising of the CEO, specific managers and some Councillors.

This working party would be charged with working through each area of the Council ensuring best practice and most effective and efficient operational methods. This would ensure that a fuller understanding and a more ratepayer driven and cost effective operation is achieved.

The Council must recognize our ratepayers’ ability to pay, given such constraints as:

  • Fixed Incomes like Superannuation
  • Climate Conditions, like Drought,
  • Economic Conditions, like High Dollar and Interest Rates.

Over the past several years the Council has expanded its size and activities and carried out significant Project Development. After such periods, it is important that time is allowed for consolidation, and to ensure that all systems are being operated efficiently and for the best benefit of the owners, the ratepayers.

Your thoughts would be most appreciated.

Kind regards,
Wayne

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

  1. With big projects, the biggest mystery, for me, is the timetable driver – who gets to push the schedule or in fact get it started?

    With some of these projects they seem to take on a life of their own – witness the numbers of prospective councillors prior to recent elections, who jumped on the "we must extend the runaway bandwagon" without the foggiest idea of Cost/Benefit of such a project.

    "It will increase the tourist flow – yeah right – prove it!!"

    Why is it necessary to get involved in another project – sports park – without knowing ongoing costs of Splash Planet and its long term future, for example.

    On the home scene one gets control of current costs before we take on further debt – why should councils not be required to observe that principle.

    Certainly it does seem to be driven from the top down – witness the Museum in Napier – yes we must have the Museum – cost/benefit analysis? Fat chance.

    For my money all of HB would do well to get wastewater sorted and financed and then turn to "nice to have things" like sports parks, airport extensions and museums.

    Collin Blackman

  2. Good points Wayne, I fear however you'd be a minority voice. But then again, the ratepyers had a chance to radically change its elected representation in 2007 but chose not to.

    Perhaps we trully deserve the Government we so deserve?

    But hold on, didn't you lot agree to spend $100,000.00 of our dollars taking up a legal challenge against the Minister of Health over the dismissing of the HB District Health Board!

  3. usually the chair of finance, together with the mayor and deputy and perhaps other "senior" councillors (ie, the "in" group), goes through a budget vetting process with staff well before the annual estimates meeting … so that everything on the list is "pre-approved" by this core group. if that didn't happen with Wayne, its a) because he's too new to the job to demand inclusion and/or b) because he's been sidelined without knowing. either way, he's not doing his job.

    similarly chairs of committees should have the opportunity to vet the budgets in their areas well before the production of the final list. again, if this didn't happen, it's a flaw in HDC's processes – and needs urgent change.

    if Auckland City can manage these more transparent processes then a smaller/less complex council such as HDC should do it at a doddle.

    while on the subject, its another plug for Community Boards, because (as part of normal process) a Board would get a preview of the spend in its area, and a chance for input etc, prior to the Council meeting. this is the norm elsewhere, helping add transparency and accountability (not to mention some common sense!)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *