Welcome show of council unity against local government reformPublish By NZweek News Staff Updated 16/07/2012 10:15 am in Opinion / no comments
PSA MEDIA RELEASE
16th July 2012 – For Immediate Use
The Public Service Association is welcoming a unified stand by the country’s councils over proposed changes to local government, saying it sends a strong signal about the government’s reform agenda.
The government has introduced the Local Government Act Amendment Bill 2002 into parliament and is now calling for submissions.
At the annual general meeting of Local Government New Zealand all councils voted to lobby the government to ensure that the direction and fundamental purpose of councils to serve their communities will not be undermined through the legislation.
PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott says “having all 78 councils uniting on this sends a very powerful message. Everyone should be concerned about the legislation as it will weaken local decision making and make councils less responsive to the needs of their own individual communities.”
“It has the potential to turn local bodies into mere agents of central government and gives the Minister substantial power to intervene in and direct council business. That’s not local democracy and a recent Green Party survey showed considerable opposition among councillors and community board members to the proposed changes.”
The PSA which is the largest union representing council staff is also concerned the legislation will extend the government’s public service staffing cap ideology into local government.
“That will only put more pressure on already overloaded staff and provide scope for central government to promote more contracting out and private provision of council services and infrastructure,” says Brenda Pilott.
“The changes are in response to a perception created by government that local government is in crisis with out of control debt and rates and staffing blowouts. The reality is that most councils are operating within prudent levels of debt and rate increase margins.”
The PSA is holding a conference of local government delegates this week to discuss its response to the legislation.
Brenda Pilott says “I’m sure they will take some heart from this show of council strength and unity around what are very important issues for them both in their workplaces and in terms of the future of their local communities.”