Auckland Council's $45.6 million bill for communications departments employing 234 staff has been slammed as "outrageous".
The Weekend Herald obtained and reported on a leaked review which showed a huge blowout in communication costs at four council bodies.
"I think it's outrageous that so many comms staff, 234 of them, should be being employed by Auckland Council, just as spin doctors," Ratepayers' Alliance Spokesperson, Jo Holmes, said.
"I have no idea what they can possibly add to the price of cheese. And I know that Phil Goff should be looking for savings and he's simply not finding them because his staff budget is just blowing out all over the place."
She said that savings form cost cutting could go towards desperately-needed roading projects around Auckland.
Between 2013 and 2017, salaries soared by 75 per cent at Auckland Council, 87 per cent at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and 56 per cent at Auckland Transport.
They rose by 104.5 per cent at Panuku Development Auckland, which was formed in September 2015 from the merger of Waterfront Auckland and Auckland Council Property Ltd.
The $45.6m figure is the total operating cost. Holmes said inflated salaries were not good use of ratepayer money, Holmes said.
"The wages and salaries that they are paying are absolutely outrageous and of course all of this has to be paid by the ratepayers which will come, I'm sure, in increased rates and other levies."
The Communications & Engagement review includes media and communications, marketing, research and consultation staff.
The review is one of four "value for money" reviews commissioned by Auckland Council as Mayor Phil Goff strives to find savings and efficiencies in the council's budget - one of his key election campaign pledges.
The findings of the review will confirm Goff's concerns during last year's mayoral campaign that there are too many communications staff at council. "You have got to wonder whether that figure isn't way above what it could be", he said, referring to the then number of communications staff.
The findings follow this month's salary scandal at council - 194 staff now earn above $200,000 - and will not help Goff's plan to hit motorists with a 10 cents per litre petrol tax to help fund a multi-billion dollar investment in trams.
According to the communications review, a previous business case to improve communications at Auckland Council in 2014 largely failed. The 2014 goal was to reduce the number of communications staff to 92. Staff numbers have increased to 105.
The business case recommended council develop a strategy for communications and engagement. "No strategy has been developed," the latest review said.
The review said there is no formal communications strategy across the council and CCOs. It calls for a strategy to achieve a co-ordinated, consistent and collaborative approach.
It also called for cost savings of 5 per cent a year for the next three years.
Goff would this week not comment on the contents of the leaked report, but said it was vital council delivers as efficiently and effectively as possible for Aucklanders.
"It is fundamental that Aucklanders have trust and confidence in us; that we are getting the best possible return on our scarce resources.
"For that reason we need to carry out reviews to ensure that those we task with the delivery of services are delivering full value for ratepayers."
Auckland Council communication and engagement director Karl Ferguson did not want to comment on the review, saying: "(I) Understand the Mayor's office has provided a response."
Goff said the four "value for money" reviews of communications, waste management, water services and global partnerships, will be made public next month.