The chickens have come home to roost for the Len Brown-led Auckland Council after four years of big spending and debt-fuelled budgets.

In simple terms, the council has been living well beyond its means and got itself in deep financial trouble.

While it has made savings these have not been enough to prevent the crunch.

It's no different to a family mortgaged up to the hilt, with a new SUV on tick, trying to survive on the average 0.9 per cent wage increase.


This is Brown's fourth budget as City Treasurer and first 10-year budget based on the plans and visions of the Auckland Council.

He calls it a realignment of the numbers of the former councils. It's more political than that. It's about setting "affordable" and "sustainable" rates to match spending and delivering the $2.86 billion City Rail Link.

It remains to be seen how Brown will fully fund the rail link with the Government ruling out tolls and congestion charges, and how the community responds to reduced library hours and closing community facilities to pay for his number one project.

Yes, Aucklanders are strongly in favour of the rail link, but this budget will test the limits of that support.

To achieve his goals, Brown must strip up to $486 million of spending every year from the budget. These are huge, scary numbers that make last year's berm issues pale into insignificance.

Already, Brown is showing signs of wobbly behaviour by not guaranteeing to keep a key election promise to hold overall rates increases to no more than 2.5 per cent this term.

That was day one. There are 11 months until the budget is passed.

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