Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Aucklanders say cut staff - not services

Poll strongly favours council salary cuts to meet savings targets.

Many Aucklanders believe the best way to deal with looming budget cuts by the Auckland Council is to reduce staff and salaries, according to the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey.

The council is facing cuts of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in running costs and capital investment in a 10-year budget being prepared by Mayor Len Brown.

The survey found that 42.5 per cent of Aucklanders believed the best way for the council to meet its budget plans was to reduce staff and salaries.

This was followed by 20.3 per cent support for rates rises of more than 2.5 per cent and 19.2 per cent support for delaying the $2.86 billion City Rail Link from 2016 to 2020.

A council suggestion to reduce services such as inorganic collections and library hours was supported by 8.9 per cent of the 248 Aucklanders in the survey of 750 people.

DigiPoll general manager Nandan Modak said the sample of 248 was too small to be considered a poll, but the Auckland results reflected the 750 nationwide responses.

The Auckland Council and its bodies employ about 8100 fulltime equivalent staff, fewer than the 9430 combined figure of the previous eight councils. The wages bill is about $702 million. About 1500 staff earn more than $100,000.

Watercare chief executive Mark Ford is the highest paid council official with a salary of about $780,000. New council chief executive Stephen Town is on a two-year fixed salary of $630,000, down from the $768,740 paid to his predecessor.

Last month, the council announced a review of planning staff, but would not say how many of the 500 staff could lose their jobs.

The proposed cuts are on a scale never before witnessed in Auckland, including less money to clean streets, maintain parks and build cycleways.

Mr Brown said in a statement the survey reinforced the message that Aucklanders want to see progress on the City Rail Link.

"Staff numbers are 1400 lower than before amalgamation and $1.7 billion has been identified in cost and efficiency savings over 10 years. The council will be looking to make further savings where it can, and we will be seeking the views of Aucklanders on how best we do that," said Mr Brown.

Mr Brown received a 3.4 per cent pay rise this month, taking his salary to $259,500. Councillors of major committees received a 3.4 per cent pay rise and other councillors a 3.3 per cent pay rise.

- NZ Herald

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