Rates going up 2.5% for “transformational … action-focused” council plan

Wellington.Scoop
Wellington city councillors today made their annual decision to increase the rates. The new increase will be 2.5 per cent.

The increased rates, part of the city’s next annual plan, will help to pay the $18.40 an hour “living wage” to 450 low-paid council staff, which councillors voted for yesterday.

The annual plan includes $4.3million for cycleways – three times as much as was allocated in the old annual plan.

The rates have also been set to enable the council to offer new terms to encourage construction of new buildings – with a 20 per cent reduction in levies – and also to encourage the strengthening of heritage buildings by remitting rates.

News from WCC
Wellington City Councillors have recommended Mayor Celia Wade-Brown’s Draft Annual Plan, which proposes a 2.5 percent rates increase for the 2014/2015 financial year, to be concluded at next week’s final full Council meeting, months ahead of previous years.

The proposed increase meets the Council’s rates limit set in its financial strategy and in line with local government inflation. This has been achieved through a sustained efficiency and saving programme that has kept rates lower than they otherwise would have been, and allowed for new initiatives to be funded.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the 2014/2015 Draft Annual Plan is a transformative plan, sustaining the Council’s level of services while taking action in key areas to improve the quality of life in Wellington.

“The plan improves transportation choices, streamlines processes to encourage development, and provides better governance for our organisations focussed on growing the economy and increasing our rating base.

“It is an action-focussed programme, which delivers new initiatives while maintaining our commitment to provide value for money and keep rates rises within the limits we imposed in our Long Term Plan,” she said.

Key projects are:

a change in Development Contributions aimed at stimulating growth
a funding package to further advance the city’s earthquake strengthening
aligning several Council Controlled Organisations to boost tourism and the local economy
a scheme to transform cycling in the city
a living wage-rate for council employees.

Deputy Mayor, and Chair of the Council’s Governance, Finance and Planning Committee, Justin Lester, says that the plan sets the momentum for a Council focussed on implementing its agreed strategy.

“We’ve managed to balance the budget, keeping rates at an affordable level for business and residential ratepayers, all while adding to what the city already offers,” he said.

The Draft Annual Plan will go out for public consultation from 11 February to 11 March 2014 after being formally adopted at a Council meeting on 19 December.

Key proposals for the Draft Annual Plan were announced last week, covering strategic cycleways and safety, CCO reorganisation, measures to encourage construction of new buildings and earthquake strengthening, and the Living Wage. You can find these announcements here: http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news

 

6 comments:

  1. Rosamund, 13. December 2013, 10:17

    During the last few weeks I have attended all the public meetings of the new council. I have been astounded at their brevity, which is not a sign of efficiency but a sign that our representatives as a whole have understood neither the implication of decisions being made nor the necessity to question each matter put before them. Agendas have been late and incomplete, with an absence of either written reports or briefings; agenda items show significant numbers of “Oral Reports” or “Presentations” delivered in a vacuum; without any substantive paper based reports their value is negligible. It’s comforting to know that all of this information must be made available to enquirers under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

    Council staff do have the knowledge of topics for which they are responsible, and must be closely questioned to ensure that our representatives have a full understanding of the matters being considered. It has been the custom for each cost centre to have its proposals considered separately at the Annual Plan Meeting. This year that wasn’t the case. Instead isolated topics were discussed on Day 1 and then the actual Annual Plan was treated, except for amendments, to a once over lightly. It is not sufficient to say that the whole document will go out for public consultation. Our elected representatives need to be fully appraised of any document going out under the name of Council.

    I was surprised to read, in the agenda of the Governance etc meeting, about the considerable increase of delegations to the Chief Executive. There was no discussion of this abdication by any of our elected representatives.It appears that councillors may have been instructed not to question matters before them. I have already noted that it has become commonplace for a chair to precede a meeting by saying that there will be no full briefings and that full reports will be discouraged as the goal is to complete deliberations quickly; hardly an action that can be applauded and not something one would wish our elected representatives to sanction.

     
  2. Phil O, 14. December 2013, 8:37

    Why oh why must Wellingtonians put up with constantly rising rates bills without so much as a whimper, except in these columns? How is it that my London borough, Royal Greenwich, last increased rates (council tax) in April 2008, yes – that’s correct – not just for one year, but for 5 years on the trot now; and next year’s rates bill effective April 2014 will be frozen too, at no detriment to council services, I might add. [first published by Stuff]

     
  3. Albert Tatler, 14. December 2013, 9:02

    Never ending isn’t it – rate increase after rate increase after rate increase. Bring back the days of the town clerk and part-time councillors. At least we got the roads swept and the bins emptied.

    The other stuff – transformational change – well you can shove it a WCC plastic waste bag if you ask me – and don’t ask me for a dollar for the bag either or you’ll get an ear full of bile.

     
  4. Peter, 14. December 2013, 10:25

    Well said Albert but…. the Town Clerk and part-time councillors also ran the power company, built and operated an extensive public transport system that included bases, trolley buses, a cable car AND light rail (tramways). There were no $1 bags to stuff the transformational change into, either. The refuse workers (who proudly called themselves dustmen) used to pick up the rubbish from household bins, wherever they were kept on people’s properties and carted it to the rubbish trucks. As if that wasn’t enough, the Council also processed and delivered fresh milk at the gate of every house in Wellington every day, built and maintained roads and did numerous other things that the current highly paid outfit have put in the too hard baskets, farming them out to the so-called private sector whose profits we all fund involuntarily. Thinking back, the Town Clerk didn’t have a package about 30 times as high as the lowest paid full time worker back then either.

     
  5. peter@eastwelly, 14. December 2013, 12:36

    Agreed with all the above. But now we have a Council full of people wanting to immortalize themselves with their spending and their schemes. Why spend a $dollar, when a $thousand is better.
    Notice how the Council is making it easier for speculators and developers to build by shifting the costs to the ratepayers, thereby enabling the rich to get richer.

     
  6. Albert Tatlock, 15. December 2013, 14:08

    You’re right Peter; making councillors full time just makes them need reports to read to fill in their days. And the councillors don’t write the reports – not that this is too hard – they need paid officers to do that. So the councillors need more officers to write up more reports on more schemes simply to give the full-time councillors something to do all day. Now if they were part-time and had a real job, say like Councillor Booth in Carterton (a farmer), you’d still get governance, but cost-effective governance by working people. They simply don’t have time to read dreamland reports.

    Amalgamation – not on my nelly! Make councils smaller and pay councillors less. That would improve governance all round because there’d be less of it and what there’d be would be governance of what matters.

     

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