It was hard not to feel sorry for council staff who wore looks of bewilderment and frustration.

After years of trying to convince Whanganui district councillors to let them build a new dog pound they got approval to do so last week but not the money to do it with.

Were they meant to have a whip-round in the office?

Forensic scrutiny of public spending is what the community expects of councillors and it's their job to make sure money is spent properly.

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But staff also have a job to do, like comply with legislation, and make sure the district functions at the most basic level.

It's curious that its those most basic issues which seem to attract the most heat from some councillors.

In recent times both the dog pound and the wastewater treatment plant have been the subject of several reports, questions, requests for further information, retaken votes and stalemates.

Painfully slow going on projects which are core business and without which council would be failing in its duty.

On the other hand it sometimes seems decisions to fund projects like the velodrome roof, the Sarjeant Gallery, the flight school or the glassworks get far less push back.

That's not to say those decisions are wrong.

Councillors share an almost united desire to grow Whanganui and absolutely have a mandate to put money into developing the district.

But it all falls over if the basics aren't done right first.

Our pound breaches animal welfare standards and can't ensure dogs are returned in "reasonable condition", and we've been pouring sewage into the ocean for years, but hey, we've got a "Leading Edge Strategy" and a new slogan; "All you need (and then some)".

Not a functioning dog pound though.

The debate should be revisited at today's meeting and councillors need to remember that not everything needs to bring visitors into town, grow businesses or have some economic payoff.

There are services that council are simply required to provide and those services cost.