Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

$3.2m to run mayor's office draws flak

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer is questioning the size and $3.2 million running cost of Mayor Len Brown's office, saying it is too expensive.

Mr Brewer is also critical of the huge disparity of power and resources between the mayor and councillors, who have no budget to contest the budgets, plans and policy development coming out of the mayoral office.

Figures released to Mr Brewer show it cost $3.2 million to run the mayor's office in the first 12 months of the Super City, much of which was spent on 23 staff, contractors and consultants.

"The mayoral budget is far too fat ... This is really empire-building stuff," said the right-leaning Orakei councillor and Mr Brown's loudest critic on council.

Mr Brewer did acknowledge that the mayor's office was pretty disciplined on travel ($29,314) and credit card expenditure ($2855).

Last night, Mr Brown accused Mr Brewer of playing silly negative politics.

"The mayoral office budget was set in legislation to stop this kind of petty political grandstanding. I am happy we came in under our legislated budget," said the mayor.

Mr Brown's chief of staff, Phil Wilson, said in a letter to Mr Brewer that the mayoral budget was set by law at a minimum level of 0.2 per cent of council's annual operating budget to support the mayor to provide a long-term vision for the city, develop policy, annual and long-term budgets and the 30-year Auckland Plan.

Mr Wilson said the mayor's budget could be set at $5.7 million, but the office had accepted a more conservative figure of $4 million and spent $3.24 million, or 20 per cent below budget.

Mr Brewer said it was commendable the mayoral budget was under budget but it was too high to start with and forecast to increase to $6.1 million in 10 years. The office should make more use of 8500 council staff to keep a lid on costs, he said.

"What's more, there is a huge disparity of power, with councillors having no budget or resource to realistically contest what's coming out of Mr Brown's office. It's not good for democracy," Mr Brewer said.

But Mr Brown said: "All my policies, whether funding for public transport or for the library system, have to be approved by councillors, who see the same reports I do."

THE FIGURES:

0.2 per cent of council budget: minimum set by law for running the mayor's office.
$5.7m - At 0.2 per cent, this was the figure in the first year from November 2010.
$4,011,012 - Budget set by mayoral office.
$3,238,202 - Actual expenditure - $772,810 under budget.

EXPENSES INCLUDE:

$1.75m - In salaries
$29,314 - Travel
$7924 - Cellphones
$2855 - Three credit cards - $2855 total (Mayor Len Brown does not have a credit card)
* Contractors/consultants/policy development costs not provided for first 12 months, but budgeted at $1 million for the 2011-2012 financial year.

STAFF:

23 in total (five policy advisers, one political adviser, three communications staff, eight administration staff, four contractors, two part-time drivers).

- NZ Herald

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