Prime Minister John Key’s address to the Local Government conference included this message:
. . . Councils have a role to play in creating an environment that is conducive to sustained economic growth – just as central government does.
And just as central government does, local government also needs to work on delivering better services to New Zealanders within tight financial constraints. . .
Better services within tight financial constraints isn’t easy but it’s necessary.
Central government has done its bit by tightening its belt.
Businesses, households, individuals and farms have also reined in debt, increased savings and made changes in response to the Global Financial Crisis.
Like everyone else, local government needs to do the same, and continue to do so as we move forward. And I am aware that, in some cases, that process has been started.
Some councils are already thinking outside the box and proactively working together to share resources, thereby cutting costs.
As I said earlier local government makes up an important part of the economy – around 4 per cent of GDP – so it has a big part to play.
Times are tight and ratepayers just can’t endure unaffordable rates rises. We are not telling you how to do your jobs, but we would urge you to think carefully about the capacity of your communities during these difficult financial times. . .
Rate increases have consistently been much greater than the rate of inflation, even if population growth is taken into account too.
One reason for that has been costs imposed on local government from central government.
But that is only part of the problem.
Too many councils have created empires of people who appear to do little more than add to the costs for ratepayers. Others have got away from their core business and poured money into expensive and unsustainable projects.
Central government has tightened its belt, businesses and households have tightened theirs, it’s time local government did too.