Auditor-General says Auckland Council budget is poo

Auditor-General Lyn Provost has pilloried Auckland Council for the state of its accounts and its budget. The Long Term Plan lacks integrity.

She has recommended – in Auckland Council’s annual report – that the Council include a sensitivity analysis in future long-term plans on how growth rates impact the budget. Sensitivity analysis is code for ‘forecast costings’.

There are a range of issues raised by the Auditor-General in her assessment.

For example she expressed concern that Council have excluded targeted rates from its calculations which meant staff were able to announce fictional levels of rate rise. Basically fudging numbers allowing for understating of rates rises. Hardly a surprise!

The Auditor-General was also unhappy with the manner in which Council calculated and recorded debt – deliberately leaving out Watercare related debts and costs which would have to be some of the biggest on the books. Council debt rose from a staggering $1.3 billion to an eye watering $7.3 billion. What was that spent on?  

But specifically she has taken particular concern with the manner in which Council accounts for and calculates growth in its Long Term Plan budget. In layman’s terms – Council hasn’t really got a good plan for the future at all and hasn’t bothered to cost the future compact city.

The problem is that Auckland Council is tits useless at analysing and planning for growth. They drafted the Auckland Plan and the PAUP without any thought whatsoever. It was all focussed on the frilly stuff like unicorns and streetscapes and pretty apartment buildings when they should have taken the first step of checking out if the pipes are suitable. No point planning a compact city if the pipes need to be replaced and you can’t afford to do it.

This is principally a simple concept but one that Council has failed miserably to undertake.

Although with $6 billion down the tubes in increased debt, even if the Council had their budget and a plan in order – they wouldn’t have the funds to implement it raising more issues. But I suspect that is the point. Its glaringly obvious that if Council does its job better – and stops fudging the books – there will be a major issue in terms of funding the compact city.

That the Auditor-General is even raising it says that it is a big issue.

I’ve been saying that for a while now. And I predict that in future years the true cost of the compact city will be a massive burden on ratepayers who will be saddled with enormous rate rises to pay for a plan that is ill-conceived. The compact city looks nice in pretty brochures but it comes at unfathomable cost to everyone who lives in it. The Auditor-general can see that as clear as day. Pity the Council can’t.

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