Local Government New Zealand looks unlikely to get at least two of its new funding review proposals fast-tracked.
The body wants mandatory rating exemptions removed which would allow councils to charge rates on Government-owned properties.
But the Office of Local Government Minister Paula Bennett is ruling that out, citing the public service that some Crown properties, such as schools, provide.
"I'd rather that money was spent on educating those kids than actually going into the hands of the council to kind of think about how they'd spend it somewhere else."
Local Government New Zealand also wants councils given the power to impose road user charges, targeted levies and fuel taxes. Minister of Transport Simon Bridges appears cool towards the idea.
"Broadly speaking you'd never say never, but ... we've been very clear with local government over a period of time that these sort of funding tools are not our preferred options at all."
Ms Bennett claims we need to call time on what's been a relentless focus on how many mayors we have, or for bureaucrats to decide what local democracy should look like.
"I do think that some councils should amalgamate, but I equally get, and am sick and tired of, the whole debate about who's bigger than who, and how they should do it, and where it should go ... I think we need to concentrate on the stuff that really matters," Ms Bennett said.
"What I would say is that they do need to look at their inefficiencies, they need to look at their staffing numbers, they need to look at how they're delivering some of the core infrastructure that is expected of them and as efficiently as possible."
How did Local Government get so out of control that almost single-handedly they are the cause of the nation’s inflation. Without rates rises 99 times the annual rate of inflation (Auckland) and average rates rises around the country being in the order of 6-7%pa there would be no inflation at all?
The rot set in with Helen Clark and the 2002 Local Government Act when the purpose of local government changed from providing core local infrastructure (roads, parks, libraries) to providing for the mythical four well-beings (social, environmental, economic and cultural). This allowed the Labour Government to hive off some of its responsibilities to local government with the added advantage that they didn’t have to fund them, ratepayers did. New LG departments and empires sprang up overnight. Rates started to skyrocket.
The National Government has tried to tame the raging beast by getting rid of the four ‘well-beings’ and bringing some financial probity to bear on spending by saying that it must be ‘cost efficient and effective’. But it’s like trying to slow down an express train that has a head of steam.
All this is in the news right now because it’s LGNZ Conference time. LGNZ is nothing more than a lobby group to increase LG power. These conferences are lavish affairs paid for by Councils throughout the country (ratepayers in other words) and corporate sponsors such as Fulton Hogan, Beca and law firm Simpson Grierson. These corporates are the major beneficiaries of local government contracts. Local Government NZ is corporate welfare gone mad at the expense of the ratepayer.
Paula Bennett is right. Local Government is a by-word for inefficient and ineffective government, the very antithesis of its purpose. The big question for the Government is how it gives effect to the purpose of the Act given that the mechanism for delivery cannot be trusted.