Councillors of all political shades say Len Brown is not hidebound to ideology but a pragmatist who will forge coalitions to get measures through.

He has given important committee chairs to political opponents and gives praise where it's due.

An example came at the May council meeting, when Brown praised Pakuranga MP Maurice Williamson (no easy thing) and the National Government's "sense of moral obligation" in its leaky homes package. Labour, in contrast, had taken a strictly legal approach to the disaster, Brown noted.

He says he will not caucus with Labour councillors if he wins the Auckland mayoralty.

Even those on the right of the political spectrum admit Brown is "a nice guy" they can work with.

But the veneer of unity has worn thin as the single council elections have approached, with centre-right councillors Dick Quax, Michael Williams, Jami-Lee Ross and Sylvia Taylor prominent among those keen to trip up Brown.

Quax and Ross are on the Citizens and Ratepayers ticket for the council.

Quax: "There's a couple of things we vehemently disagree on in terms of economic growth and the economic challenges affecting the region. I would not consider that he is pro-market. He may be pro-business, but not pro-market."

Ross: "A lot of the issues we disagree on are left and right perspective issues. Len's big on expanding social services provided by local government. I subscribe to low debt and a focus on core services."

These critics cite rows over the planned closure of an access road at Omana beach (there was a community revolt) and the naming of the Pakuranga Athletics Club's new track as evidence of Brown backing local wishes only when it suits him and, says Ross, "flawed decision-making processes".

In February, several councillors wrote to the Audit Office after Brown was influential in overturning the recommendation of council officers in a tender for community-based education programmes in Mangere. The Audit Office quickly dismissed the complaint.

But the controversy over Brown's use of his council credit card finally brought an issue which his critics knew would resonate beyond the parish pump.