$50m more than budgeted for pay after number of employees soars

Under-fire Auckland Council has blown its wages and salaries budget by $50 million, figures show.

Information obtained by the Herald on Sunday showed the council spent $730m paying staff in the year to June 30. The organisation has been heavily criticised since mayor Len Brown last month announced extreme measures to cut $2.7 billion off the city's $13.1b debt over the next 10 years.

The latest budget-busting figure will not help. According to the council's annual report the cost of paying staff ballooned $50m over the $680m budget.

That figure comes after it was revealed this week the number of people employed by the council increased by 518 this year to 11,134, while those earning six-figure salaries jumped almost 20 per cent to 1780.

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Right-wing councillor Cameron Brewer provided the latest figures to the Herald on Sunday.

The blowout was unacceptable when local boards will be forced to make significant cuts to community projects and oversee service cuts, he said. "It's totally unbelievable given the huge salaries budget management had to work with from the outset."

The blowout was even more dramatic when compared with the $654m cost forecast in the 2012 long-term 2013-14 budget, Brewer said.

"So against the 10-year budget signed off just two years ago, it's more like a $76m blowout to what was anticipated."

Reasons given to councillors for the overspending included an "increased headcount" and meeting "the needs for increased projects which weren't budgeted".

The public deserved assurances this year's $719m budget would hold, he said. Brewer sought an amendment in July to investigate limits of staff numbers after changes to the Local Government Act gave councils the power to do so, but the amendment was "thrown out by the mayor", he said.

An Auckland Council spokesman said salary costs were a steady 22-23 per cent of operational expenses since amalgamation - equal or below their peers.

The council group included the seven subsidiaries, as well as other entities such as Auckland Zoo and the city's port, and variances were inevitable in large diverse organisations, he said. "A large proportion of the variation is attributable to services that are non-rate funded and driven by demand, such as resource and building consents and water connections."

But TV broadcaster and council critic Paul Henry said the mayor was making "the most liveable city a city that no bastard can afford to live in".

"There'll be no problems on the roads and his bloody rapid rail will be going as fast as anything because there'll be no one standing at the bloody station," he said.

A spokeswoman for Brown said it was up to the council's chief executive, or council subsidiary board chairs, what staff were paid.