That was a headline in the DomPost last week, referring of course to central government.
Don’t expect to see a headline like that in Hawke’s Bay Today anytime soon!
Although it’s budgeting crunch time for our local Councils, one thing you can be absolutely, positively sure of … personnel cuts are not on the table.
It’s curious how central government has managed to eliminate nearly 2,000 public service jobs since December 2008, and our local bodies none.
Our local bodies try their best to boast of achieving ‘efficiencies’ … but funny how these never involve identifying unnecessary staff. If a possibly redundant body is found somewhere under a desk, that slot is always redeployed to some other ‘urgent’ activity. So, unlike local businesses, Councils never diminish in size.
Now, I’m no Attila the Hun when it comes to slashing local budgets, but don’t ratepayers at least deserve to know how many people they’re paying for and what they do … with a bit of justification for the expenditure? Yet, if you examine the public consultation documents for the Hastings, Napier and Regional Councils, you will find no discussion of personnel costs whatsoever. In fact, you would need a magnifying glass to discover simply the gross amount spent on staff.
In Hastings, that proposed personnel cost for 2011-12 is $23.6 million. In the rest of the projected $92 million operating expenditure, nothing (except depreciation) comes remotely close to that amount. And of course personnel is up $439k from this year.
The corresponding figure in Napier for 2011-12 is $24.9 million, out of $81.6 million in operating expenditure. Personnel is up $681k over the current year.
The HBRC almost earns a gold star for actually identifying the number of staff it employs — 163. However, they can’t claim the prize, because no where in their 135 page Annual Plan document do they ever admit how much they spend on personnel, out of $37.2 million in operating expenditure. (I’m going to guess $12-15 million.) That should add fuel to the gossip that HBRC boasts the highest paid staff per person amongst HB councils.
Council documents are happy to provide excruciating detail about the depreciation of physical assets like roads and toilet blocks, but they are stubbornly reluctant to divulge how many people they employ or their per head cost! You can be sure though, none will depreciate in value!
P.S. Wasn’t Rodney Hide supposed to be doing something about local government fiscal transparency?!