Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

$23,000 for council satchels

New councillor Linda Cooper has returned her $142 satchel, which she said was a waste of money. Photo / Dean Purcell
New councillor Linda Cooper has returned her $142 satchel, which she said was a waste of money. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland councillors and local board members have been given leather satchels to carry their council documents, at a cost of $23,304.

The 164 fancy bags - emblazoned with the council's pohutukawa logo - come as Mayor Len Brown promises a crackdown on rising debt and salaries for executives.

Councillor Linda Cooper returned her $142 briefcase after holding it up during her maiden speech on Wednesday, a move labelled a stunt by councillor Cathy Casey.

Said Ms Cooper: "As a ratepayer I'm appalled and as a councillor I'm embarrassed. Consequently I will be handing this back. I'm quite happy to carry my papers in a shopping bag."

She said politicians needed technology but believed the cases were unnecessary and a waste of money.

On the election campaign, Ms Cooper said, people were really concerned about council spending.

"Ratepayers don't want to be screwed over, but treated with respect because it is their money," she said.

Councillors and local board members have the option of a council-funded laptop and mobile phone or taking an allowance for technology.

A council spokesman said the bags were selected for their utility, strength and durability for politicians to safely carry often-bulky paper to and from meetings all over the region.

"It's important the bags were of sufficient quality to securely store and carry mobiles and laptops, to assist elected members perform their duties," the spokesman said.

Mayor Brown agrees with providing the satchels to elected members.

"The satchels were provided because councillors and local board members are required to attend meetings across the region and need to be able to securely store and carry mobile phones and laptops," a spokesman for the mayor said.

Stephen Berry, who stood under the Affordable Auckland ticket for the mayoralty last month and came third with 13,650 votes, said the bags were an "obscene perk" that councillors should pay back.

Meanwhile, Mr Brown and councillors have received pay increases of up to 17.5 per cent from the Remuneration Authority.

The mayor's annual salary has risen 1.5 per cent to $251,010, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse has been given a 13.8 per cent rise to $141,337, Penny Webster and George Wood a 17.5 per cent increase to $116,762 as chairs of whole-of-council committees and councillors a 9.6 per cent increase to $98,672.

Councillors Chris Fletcher and Mike Lee get paid an extra $53,000 in fees as councillors appointed to the Auckland Transport board.

- NZ Herald

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