The burgeoning cost of council meetings

A FOUR-HOUR Auckland Council committee meeting costs ratepayers more than $70,000, according to new figures released under the Official Information Act.

It was previously estimated council committee meetings cost ratepayers $20,000 per hour, but new figures show that is just a fraction of the cost.

The costs associated with committee meetings include the cost of producing reports, administration tasks, printing costs and the time associated with councillor and staff attendance.

Council spokesman Isis van Geenen said the media had recently used a figure of $20,000 per hour for a committee meeting. That figure was based on a previous estimate of $19,000 per hour, which was used as a scene setter for a discussion on changes to financial delegations of staff – and covered a ‘typical Governing body meeting’ of four hours and consisting of around 10 committee papers.

The figures included the cost of writing a report, the pre-meeting administration costs, the meeting itself and post-meeting costs.

She said the cost estimate did not include costs for communications or legal staff, catering, web casting, security and concierge staff or building costs, which included general wear and tear and power costs. 

The new figures provided under the Official Information Act show that for a four hour meeting with ten committee papers, production costs are $33,913 per meeting or $8478 per hour. That covers the cost of writing ‘and developing a committee paper’.

On top of that, there are pre-meeting costs of $922 per meeting or $231 per hour, which is the cost of assembling, printing and distributing a meeting agenda.

Add to that the cost of the meeting itself – $37,130 or $9038 per hour which includes councillor time, staff time, and catering costs – and the figure jumps to around the $70,000 mark.

Then there are post-meeting activity costs, which the council estimates to be $1500.

Van Geenen said the council did not have comparative figures for previous years.

The Auckland Council consists of a mayor and 20 councillors. There are also 149 members of 21 local boards who make decisions on matters local to their communities, which makes it the largest council in Australasia, with a $3 billion annual budget, $29 billion of ratepayer equity, and approximately 8,000 staff.

 


cookStephen Cook is a multi award winning journalist and former news editor and assistant editor of the Herald on Sunday.


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