Outside advice on cuts costly for ratepayers

By Amelia Wade

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker. Photo / APN
Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker. Photo / APN

Hamilton City Council's chief executive spent more than $190,000 of ratepayers' money in the past year, and nearly half of it went on confidential legal advice.

Barry Harris said most of that amount was for advice relating to how to cut $15 million a year from the council's budget. Figures of his spending come a month after it was revealed that Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker spent almost $92,000 in a year on running her office - including buying a $1257 desk chair.

The chief executive's expenditure relates to the period from April 1 last year to the start of last month.

As well, Mr Harris' office spent more than $46,000 on professional fees that included governance meetings with elected members, human resource consultation on a senior leadership review and security advice.

Part of that sum was also spent on advice on local government collaboration in Waikato, the cost of which was shared with other councils.

Mr Harris' second-largest charge was $91,317, spent on confidential legal advice.

With that advice from outside professionals, the council had been able to identify some "very significant savings" within the organisation so it could cut its total spending.

"I've been in the job for 12 months and have been totally focused on driving efficiencies in the organisation and we have a plan now to take $15 million per annum out of the spend of the organisation," he said yesterday.

"So my focus has been on the big efficiencies drive and as part of that, I've had to take advice from a number of professionals, both legal and financial, in order to assist me to drive that level of change."

He believed his office's spending was "very reasonable" for an operation of its size.

Mr Harris, who makes $360,000 a year, also spent $11,353 on meeting expenses and hosting costs.

The budget list said those costs related to room bookings, audiovisual equipment and catering.

The chief executive's office also spent $5538 on travel - including flights, accommodation and taxis - and $1488 on printing and stationery. Pens, flowers and a Koru Club membership were among Ms Hardaker's $92,000 of expenses.

- NZ Herald

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