A $63 million blowout in staff costs is being downplayed by Auckland Council staff, who say savings in other areas have led to an $80 million budget surplus this year.

Last week, the council released figures showing the staff budget of $729 million had risen to $792 million and fulltime equivalent staff numbers increased by 208 to 9678.

Councillor Cameron Brewer said that five years ago, ratepayers were promised the Super City would do "more stuff with less staff".

"Every year since, without fail, Auckland Council's staff numbers and costs have climbed as the mayor has completely squandered the opportunity to deliver the benefits of amalgamation," he said.

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Mayor Len Brown refused to comment on the latest staff costs and numbers, which have risen steadily in the five years of his leadership.

Mr Brown last year refused a similar Herald request to comment on staffing issues.

In the five years of the Super City, fulltime equivalent staff numbers have risen from 8207 to 9678, and the wages bill has climbed from $615 million to $792 million.

Before the Super City, the legacy councils had 9430 staff, but this excluded 524 Ports of Auckland staff included in this year's figure of 9678.

Council finance general manager Kevin Ramsay acknowledged that staff issues were a sensitive matter.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey last year found 42.5 per cent of Aucklanders polled believed the best way for the council to meet its budget was to reduce staff and salaries.

Mr Ramsay said the total spend on staff and suppliers was in line with the budget and contributed to an $80 million surplus this year.

About $40 million of the $63 million increase in staff costs was a consequence of growth and spent by Auckland Transport, Watercare and other council agencies, he said. Other factors were needing more staff to process building consents and work being brought back in-house.

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Asked why the council had not planned for growth in the budget, Mr Ramsay said "overall it was because we made an operational surplus of $80 million compared to budget".

"Overall the cost of running the organisation as a whole is well and truly better than budget. One line, which is staff costs, has gone over and other costs are under."

Councillor Dick Quax did not accept that most of the increased staff costs were due to growth, saying a lot of the increase was at the top end of the salary bands, where 1912 staff were paid more than $100,000 a year, and 36 more than $300,000.

Head count

• 9430

: Pre-Super City councils

• 8207

: November 2010 when Super City was formed

• 9470

: 2014

• 9678**

: 2015

*Fulltime equivalent(FTE) jobs

**Includes Ports of Auckland staff not counted in the pre-Super City figure

Staff costs
• 2011: $615m
• 2012: $655m
• 2013: $693m
• 2014: $730m
• 2015: $729m budgeted cost
• 2015: $792m actual cost