INDEPENDENT NEWS

Reforms to help keep rate rises under control

Published: Wed 28 Oct 2009 03:23 PM
Reforms to help keep rate rises under control
Hon Rodney Hide, Minister of Local Government
Wednesday, October 28 2009
Local government reforms agreed by Cabinet this week will give ratepayers more say in how councils spend their money, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide said today.
"The reforms are about local government focussing on core functions, managing within a defined budget, and adopting transparent and accountable decision-making processes," Mr Hide said.
"These changes to the Local Government Act 2002 will ensure that council costs, rates and activities are better controlled. The decisions taken by Cabinet this week represent significant progress towards better local government, and easier and more effective participation by ratepayers and residents in the activities of their councils.
"Ratepayers want and need greater confidence in their councils, and to have access to better, more easily understood information about the spending and performance of their councils - these reforms will enable that to happen.
"The changes will deal with some of the concerns which led to calls for greater use of referendums in local government. As a result Cabinet has decided to leave the present powers of councils to call polls and referendums unchanged."
The reforms include:
Councils being encouraged to focus on core services by amending section 12 of the Local Government Act (the power of general competence) to require councils to have particular regard to the importance of: infrastructural services; solid waste services; hazard and disaster management; libraries and recreation; culture and heritage services; and the performance of regulatory responsibilities and statutory duties
Simplifying council planning by merging the community outcomes process into the long-term council community planning process
Requiring councils to provide ‘plain English’ financial reporting
Pre-election reports that draw together existing council information in a readily accessible format and timely manner to help promote election debate
Analysis of 2009-19 Long Term Council Community Plans shows that councils’ operating costs will increase 39 per cent over the next 10 years. Over the same period councils' planned capital expenditure will total $31.4 billion, and total debt is forecast to rise to $10.8 billion.
Mr Hide said legislation to enact the reforms is expected to be introduced to Parliament before the end of this year.
ENDS

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