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Council’s response to the Taxpayers Union report

29 Aug 2017

Council’s response to the Taxpayers Union report

The Gisborne District Council and councils across the country have criticised the Ratepayers Report published by The Taxpayers Union, the Gisborne Herald had quoted statistics from the report regarding GDC staffing levels. The report stated that Gisborne District Council employs 397 staff.

“In our annual report for 2016/17 which is currently being prepared for audit, we have 281 full time equivalent (FTE) employees,” says Acting Chief Executive David Wilson. 

“Each council takes a different approach to the tasks it chooses to deliver with its own staff and those it delivers via contractors.

“We employ students for example over the holiday periods and in doing so these students gain valuable work experience while they are with us – also benefiting the community.  

“The Taxpayers Union’s analysis did not take into account these considerations when making these types of comparisons.

“FTE is the more appropriate number than total headcount, as this accurately adds up the amount of resource that is available and therefore in this context - being paid for by the ratepayer.”

“The use of FTE’s to define resourcing is consistently applied across councils, and using any other way for determining staffing levels and comparing it to the range of activities that Council choose to undertake, is like comparing apples to eggs.”

On behalf of councils across the country, Dave Cull, President of Local Government New Zealand says media releases from the Taxpayer Union criticise council’s performance without providing even a tiny degree of context.

Mr. Cull says the figures did not take into account many considerations when making these types of comparisons.

“The report divides performance factors by the wrong number,” he says “and the basis for comparison is wrong.”

“Dividing factors such as debt, rates and salaries by what the Taxpayer’s Union calls “residential ratepayers” creates a number of problems. For a start it ignores the fact that businesses and farmers also pay rates.

“It also ignores the fact that the number of rating units is not the same as the number of people for whom councils provide services.  Resulting comparisons are therefore meaningless.”

Under the leadership of Chief Executive Nedine Thatcher Swann, Council’s organisational structure has been flattened and is now more streamlined, “we are focused on delivering the outcomes that the Elected Members and the community expect from us. I believe this formula allows us to use our resources more effectively and enables our staff on every level to feel empowered to get on with the job.”

Mr. Wilson reiterated that Council is committed to responding to the needs of the community and to finding the most cost effective way to do this.  

Opinion: Taxpayers’ Union doesn’t trust ratepayers with the truth, Dave Cull, LGNZ [PDF, 98 KB]

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