Job cuts and controlling council costs

New Zealand First strangely blames the government for job cuts at the Wellington City Council. But the rest of us would see things differently – job cutting is surely one of the ways that the council is trying to control its costs and to keep its rates increases as low as it can.

NZ First claimed on Tuesday that change managers have been working at the council with the aim of “slashing employee numbers including senior managers.”

One day later, the DomPost reported that 35 council staff have been made redundant as drainage maintenance responsibilities are moved to private contractors. Council chief executive Garry Poole confirmed that changes would be necessary “to meet major economic challenges.” He seemed to align himself with NZ First when he blamed the Government’s moves to reform local government, but then he mentioned some of the council’s big spending commitments – earthquake strengthening costs and leaky homes liabilities. He said a review of business units will take two or three months.

On Sunday night, Mayor Wade-Brown had issued a statement describing ways that the council was saving money – she referred to opportunities to trim back asset renewal spending and create more operational efficiencies. Because of this, she said, the next rates increase would be 3.3 per cent instead of the figure of 4.1 per cent which had earlier been signalled.

The words “operational efficiencies” may not have stood out in her lengthy statement at the weekend. But now that we know about job cutting, the words acquire extra significance. And for those who have long wondered why the council hasn’t cut back staff numbers as one of the ways of controlling its annual spending increases and thereby also controlling its annual rates increases, the only question is: why hasn’t it happened earlier?


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