Adrian Webster – Rating the rates stories

Last month John Haxton and I launched our two Boards’ nine key policies for this Council election. We did this on behalf of our communities who want the election to be about policies and not about personalities.

Sadly some wannabe Councillors are not listening. These candidates are saying they can do a better job than the present Council in keeping rates down.

That’s an easy but empty boast as the public would find out all too soon and too late.

The people who are making these claims have embarked on a malicious campaign of misinformation focussed on the role of Council and its staff. It’s bad, Parliamentary candidates don’t attack public servants. Why should it happen here?

Let me put some things on the record which aren’t all that obvious to those who haven’t spent much time here learning how Council operates.

Firstly, Councils don’t set staff salaries or conditions, that’s not a governance role and any Council which overstepped those limits would be sacked and replaced by a Commissioner.

Councils do set the Chief Executive’s salary but that’s as far as it goes. He is responsible for all operational matters and that includes the conditions for his staff. He has a statutory duty to be a good employer and that means treating his staff fairly in comparison with the local government employment market.

The thing that is most unfair is that this gaggle of candidates are poisoning our communities’ perceptions about Council’s highly competent and under-appreciated staff. Why would anyone want to work for a Council when so much muck is thrown? In the past week some staff have been abused by the public just because they work for Council. Thank God the staff care more about Kāpiti than the wannabes do.

Most of our rates are spent on services because projects are financed by loans to be fair to us – the present generation of ratepayers, by spreading project costs to future generations who will also benefit from them. This means that cutting rates would cut the services that Council staff provide.

The wannabes’ presumption is stupendous and deeply insulting to everyone in our communities who participate in the public consultation on the annual plan and who again this year confirmed that people want Council to maintain and even expand the whole range of things which ensures we have healthy and well functioning communities.

Kāpiti is asset poor and so rates alone have to finance things which many older councils also have investment income to help pay for. This year Council kept rates down to the lowest level it could and well below the amount proposed by last year’s long term plan. And I have no doubt that you Councillors can do that again next year and the following year giving the lie to the figures that some wannabes are waving about in their present attempt to scare people into voting for them.