A Rudderless Council

Rudderless imageIt is becoming increasingly obvious that we need someone who can take Auckland by the scruff of the neck and provide real leadership.

The Council’s performance no longer reflects the people’s or central government’s mandate that a Super City is there to reduce costs and provide better services through economies of scale.

Auckland Council is rudderless around two crucial areas. The first is the setting of performance targets which reflect high standards of accountability and making these completely transparent.  The second is to deliver on reducing costs and increasing productivity.  Only a complete turnaround in the leadership, and of the Council’s current culture, will address a “re-focussing” onto cost savings.

So it can meet its funding deficit issues, Council is instead choosing to search for ways to increase its income through rate hikes and Disneyland-like compliance costs, as well as through other “new funding sources”. This is the wrong strategy. Council should first be addressing wasteful and unaffordable expenditures.

What should the top leadership job in Auckland be doing differently?

  • Change the Councillors holding key financial positions on Committees with ones that have a financial background.
  • Reduce the annual $720 million wage bill immediately by 20%.
  • Set expenditure and service performance targets that will address the deficit issue.
  • Force the removal of the layered staffing structures. This removes associated large departmental overheads, reduces bureaucracy and demands internal productivity improvements.
  • Aspire for Auckland to be New Zealand’s highest performing most cost-effective unit in local government.
  • Stop ignoring the Royal Commission recommendation and immediately appoint an independent performance auditor who will measure, and publically report on, performance against targets.
  • Get back to core Council business and produce a cost-effective core services-based budget. Unlike the current proposed budget and long-term plans of this Council.
  • Achieve internationally benchmarked customer service accreditation. Make improving the customers experience around consent processing the priority.
  • Central policy redefined as central guidelines so urban oriented rules can be adapted for non-urban environments.
  • Delegate budget envelopes to the Local Boards along with increased decision making power around roading and infrastructure projects.
  • Allow local contractors, community volunteers and community groups to deliver local projects through their Local Boards making major cost savings along with faster delivery.
  • Allow the Press to access Council officers and remove the current ‘gate-keeping’ around what gets reported to the public. Bring in transparency.
  • Fire senior staff if they fail to deliver. Reward them if they meet their targets.

The seven Council Controlled Organisations (CCO’s) provide a weird service delivery structure where the Mayor and Councillors must joust in order for projects to emerge, over which they have little control, and which produces an army of bureaucrats. It’s highly questionable democracy. Ratepayers deserve – no demand – a governance model with excellent performance management and reporting, high standards of accountability, transparency and value for money.