Council CEO Responds In-Kind

Roughhan writes an opinion, Stephen Town Responds


Yesterday John Roughan wrote an opinion piece in the NZ Herald yesterday comparing Minister of Finance Bill English to Auckland Mayor Len Brown over finances.

You can read the opinion piece over at the Herald but below is an introductory excerpt:

John Roughan: Auckland should not lose services

Bill English has balanced a budget without ‘random amputations’
English believes the targets serve a greater purpose in changing the way the public service works. Photo / NZ Herald

Auckland is being softened up for a reduction in public services. Something has to go we are told — inorganic rubbish collections, maybe — if the mayor is to keep rates from rising beyond his election promise. Aucklanders should not listen to this.

The Super City was given a mayoral office with more powers than any elected position in New Zealand local government has previously enjoyed. It is our first “executive mayoralty”. The office has the power to draft the city’s budget and the staff to oversee the council’s operations. It has become obvious this week that Len Brown has not used it.

From the time he was first elected he has staffed the office predominantly with political advisers and publicists who churn out press statements and articles about visions and plans for some future “liveable city” in response to every problem that arises in the present.

Meanwhile, the monster bureaucracy created by the amalgamation of Auckland’s previous municipalities goes about its work in its own way at its own pace, not noticeably troubled by any scrutiny from the office of the executive mayor.

When a city is asked to accept reduced services for more cost, in the middle of an economic boom, something is seriously wrong. Staff are suggesting the council will need to find savings by means such as ending inorganic rubbish collections and reducing library hours or park maintenance, to keep rate rises within reason. The council’s limp majority will probably go along with this nonsense.




Now we know people have all sorts of opinions about the Council and its finances. That said a response from the Council – more to the point CEO Stephen Town came through earlier today. This is what he had to say:

Response to the Weekend Herald editorial

Dear Sir

When John Roughan describes the unified Auckland Council as an ‘under-working morass of inefficiency’, what exactly is he referring to? Could it be the $1.7bn in cost and efficiency savings under the new Council, is it the vastly improved consenting times or a better relationship with central government? Perhaps it’s our AA credit rating, historic investment in public transport, or the most stable and low rates rises in decades?

We know we can do better, but we’re also proud of what our staff and Councillors have achieved in three and a half short years – to improve services, keep costs low for Aucklanders and invest for the future.

Over the next 12 months the Council will take the next big step – a 10 year budget aligned to Auckland’s priorities. There will be tough choices ahead for our city’s leaders. But as the Mayor has said, it’s also a historic opportunity to transform our city for the better. That’s something that’s worthy of a thoughtful and informed discussion with Aucklanders – and something we hope the Herald will want to be part of.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Town
Chief Executive
Auckland Council




The debate continues


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