Here are some comments I made on Debt & Rates at a Te Atatu Residents & Ratepayers meeting 3 years ago.
Address to TARRA 9/6/08 Gary Osborne
In 2000 debt for WCC was $64.4m which equated to $370 per head.
The Council nowadays talks about net debt and gross debt. Net debt does not include debt on properties acquired by the Council for development. Unfortunately, the two figures are often interchanged depending upon which figures best suit the Council for its Press Releases at a given time.
The 2007/08 budget put net debt at $351m, gross debt at $466m.
In this year’s Draft Annual Plan the Mayor talks about being “slimmed down” and ending up with an 8.5% rates increase. That proposed figure is a disgrace.
The Net Debt in this year’s Draft Annual Plan is proposed as $462m. That’s a figure very close to the Gross Debt for the previous year and equates to $2370 per head – an increase of $2000 in 8 years!
Quite simply, such increases are unsustainable yet our Councillors keep rubber stamping the proposals.
Debt Service interest last year was $14.9m. This year’s proposal is $21.6m. That’s an increase of 45% in one year!
The Independent Rates Inquiry which was released in September last year had 96 recommendations. It concluded “for a significant section of the population –especially superannuitants – rates will be unaffordable in ten years time.” It criticised Councils for showing insufficient financial restraint and paying inadequate attention to the equity and affordability of their plans.”
This Council is notorious for getting its priorities wrong and the latest Draft Annual Plan does nothing to allay the fears of responsible ratepayers.
Countless examples of reckless expenditure include an annual input of $250000 to Beacon Pathways, Trash to Fashion, promotion of a single book costing Council more than $100 000 shortly after closing the Te Atatu Sth library, a proposed Tram Track for $7.2m, top up ratepayer contributions to the Trusts Stadium for the next three years — and so the list goes on….
In the Draft LTCCP 2003-2012 budgeted rate increases from 2004 to 2008 were 4.83%, 4.58%, 4.77% and 4.98%. Yet in 2006 budgeted rate increases had been revised up to 6.85% for the next ten years. We are now looking at a proposed rate increase for this year of 8.5%. That’s an indictment on the current Council. Yet Penny Hulse has had the affront to suggest that the small number of submissions regarding rates indicates that ratepayers are happy. She should have a good read of the Independent Rates Inquiry Report. Some submitters pointed out that consultation on council spending plans was basically a waste of time and said a Council’s discretion to ignore submissions should be removed. As I’ve said many times before, it’s neither apathy nor contentment which stops people from putting in submissions … it’s cynicism!