Two councillors have given Mayor Phil Goff a serve over publicity around a planned major review of Auckland Council functions.
The council's finance and performance committee today backed the "value for money programme", which will focus on four main areas.
• Water, wastewater and stormwater services ("three waters")
• Domestic waste services, including rubbish, recycling, inorganic and organic services
• Organisational support, starting with communications and engagement activities
• Investment attractions and global partnerships looking at international and trade engagement across the council group
The committee agreed the "three waters" should be the first to go under the microscope, as well as deciding several council committee chairs and deputy chairs should agree on the terms of reference and form a steering group to monitor the review.
The review, which will also look at merging back office services between the council's six council-controlled organisations (CCOs) and Auckland Council to find savings of 10 per cent, will be conducted under section 17A of the Local Government Act. The act requires councils to review the cost effectiveness of their services every six years.
That prompted some councillors to express their displeasure at Goff, who campaigned to
"do more more with less" and taking a hard look at "shared services" between the CCOs and council to save costs, for speaking publicly about the review last week.
Councillor Penny Hulse questioned whether the review was any different from the "normal process" of 17A reviews.
"We now have the mayor ... being acknowledged in the media for driving this and giving the council a shake-up and saving billions of dollars.
"So that's probably hyperbole from the media, but this is either driven by the mayor as a cost-saving review and it's political or it's performed by staff as part of a normal 17A review process and I can't work out where one starts and the other finishes."
Goff vigorously defended the review, which was not a review of the CCO structure, but of the service being delivered by both the organisations and the "council proper", he said.
It was not a cost-cutting exercise - it was a value for money exercise - and findings could be that more money needs to be spent on services.
"It's fundamentally on us as elected representatives or as professional staff to be able to eyeball our constituents and say we are confident that we are providing the best possible service at the most reasonable cost."
He also needed to be able to tell the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the same thing.
Goff had some support. Councillor Greg Sayers congratulated the mayor for "bringing this item to committee".
"I think ratepayers will be very interested in the value for money they're getting."
But councillor Daniel Newman voted against the "value for money programme", because he believed only the "three waters" needed immediate review. He voted in favour of how the terms of reference are agreed and the formation of a steering group to monitor the review.
Speaking after Goff had left the committee meeting for another engagement, Newman said it was difficult when the mayor presented the review proposal to media before it came to the committee.
"I don't know if the mayor has an agenda or if he's just confused, he's got a bit on, but the problem is the messaging becomes very contorted when it goes out to talkback land ... if we don't get proper scope around this I believe the mayor is going to over-egg this and completely under deliver on the savings that he's talking about."
He felt for council and CCO staff, who will be subject to a number of reviews "cascading over time".
"But at least the mayor will be able to go to Wellington and say he's doing something. He's having a big review."