Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pull Finger!

There are plenty of opportunities for the Nats to sink the spoon into this sordid bunch of sorry socialists. One of the most frustrating aspects of being a loyal National Party member is seeing them miss the boat.

Here we are with the kick off of a $1.5 million rates inquiry, which deliberately misses the key point—and we have not a whisper of protest from National’s Local Government spokesmen John Carter and Mark Blumsky. Well, boys, get off your lazy arses and start doing your fucking jobs.

National’s local government policy, as far as policies go, is a reasonable document--particularly surprising since it was written by Nick Smith, and is two years old. But it misses out on key issues, and is in need of dire reform. It spends far too much time talking about “consulting” with local government, while local government continues to waste increasing amounts of ratepayers’ money at alarming rates. Local Government doesn’t need “consultation”. It is a slimy cesspool of mediocre socialist politicians who hide behind vast layers of bureaucracy to intervene in ordinary ratepayers’ lives. We’ve gone well beyond the time for consultation. What New Zealand needs is a tough minister to go in and take a big fucking axe to the useless fuckers.

National's challenge in Government will be to pick off policy areas that directly send the socialists squealing and send them into disarray. New Zealand voters have no great sympathy towards the unaccountable never-beens that make up local authority “elected” representation. It’s time to sock it to the buggers.

One of the many lessons of Margaret Thatcher’s greatness was her ability to identify the things that whip the pinkos into a lather. Her reformation of local government in the late 80s—local government that at the time had far more responsibilities devolved to them than New Zealand ever had—was, in part, about putting a lid on some of the mindless socialist mess-ups of the time. Where Thatcher failed was that she didn’t clamp down on the socialist-dominated local authorities’ power to spend.

And here lies the great fiasco that is the Government’s inquiry into local government funding. It is a pointless talk-fest that will spend months coming up with different economic models for how to rate and pay for local government services. Who pays, and with what mechanism, doesn’t actually matter.

It’s their bloody spending that is the problem.

Local Government is rotten to its core. The degrees of bureaucracy required to do anything, apparently in the name of democracy, have created a whole new, and vastly expensive, organizational model: the consultocracy. The requirement to consult with the community, and every competing organisational unit, over even the most thoroughly trivial of developments, places colossal burdens on the ratepayer. Special interest groups need to be included in decision-making for no other reason than they will make noise if not included. In a town like Auckland, there are a lot of special interest groups.

The industry that feeds off this system is wasteful in the extreme, with no external pressures or motivations to act efficiently. Take the case in point of a friend of mine, the manager of a major project in the Auckland region. He was appointed last year, and, being new to the Council, had little knowledge about how the Council operated. In his project team were a group of external consultants, who had been hired by his general manager. As part of this project, he was required to put out a tender for consulting advice on a key aspect of the project. He asked his manager whether it was appropriate for him to go to the Council’s internal procurement office to work out the tender process on that advice. His manager told him to use another external consultant to provide that external tendering advice.

Thus when the external consultant gave the wrong advice about how to go about administering a tender process for external consultancy services, the project manager called the procurement office. The correct advice on the tender process for external consultancy services was given within two minutes. Thus the waste of $15,000 on faulty advice by a consultant on internal council processes. The consultant in question continues to be retained by the project manager, on the basis that she has indispensable relationships formed over fifteen years as an external consultant to Council.

Auckland Regional Council’s expenditure remained static for ten years up until 2001. In the last five years, the Council’s spending has doubled. Auckland City Council—again static over the previous period, but up 60% in the last five years. Bay of Plenty Regional Council—up by 150% over the same period. Canterbury Regional Council’s spending is up by 70%. All in all, local authorities spend over $5 billion—about 4% of GDP—on local authority services. That compares with $3.5 billion in 2000, and $2.8 billion way back when Statistics started keeping records in 1993.

All the while, the asset base of local authorities has ballooned in the last six years, as trivial little empire-builders have self-perpetuated an asset portfolio of $44 billion in 2000, to a whopping $80 billion this year.

Not that Auckland City Councillors actually feel the pinch when they pay their rates bills. The socialist-dominated Council is full of middle-class pinkos—with the sole exceptions of Leila Boyle and Bill Christian—who live in million dollar homes.

They are, in sum, a waste of bloody space.

Local Government is a creation of Parliament. It has, of itself, no legal power other than that which Parliament has given it. It is high time that Parliament stopped passing the buck for local authority excesses, and reined them in.

So in the interests of being constructive, here are some proposals that are so sensible Mark Blumsky and John Carter don’t even have to think about, and it will give them respect, gratitude of the public, and the enmity of every card-carrying Labour Party scumbag who seeks a cushy job in local government before joining Aunty Helen’s also-ran caucus.

  1. Take responsibility for the activities of Local Government. Stop passing the buck on wayward, overspending, inept and bloated councils by claiming that’s what local electors want. The degree of apathy by voters in local government is directly related to their frustration that nothing will change the irresponsible habits of empire-building petty politicians.
  2. Cut the number of local authorities from 86 to 6. There’s far too much inter-council squabbling, duplication of services, and electable opportunities for would-be meddlers. With one stroke of the pen, tell them to fuck off.
  3. Restrict each of the local authorities to ten elected representatives, elected by first past the post. At present the most obscure and petty-minded patch-protector gets elected, and reelected, by doing nothing more than promising a couple of neighbours that they will get their pot-holes fixed. It will also have the added effect of forcing some 500 socialists in elected council positions to get a real fucking job.
  4. Tightly define the core responsibilities of local government: water, wastewater, roading, and rubbish collection. All of these services should be tendered out. With just six local authorities, the services will have a critical mass for international best-practice supply of such services. Council’s role will be restricted to selecting the best service supplier.
  5. Reduce non-core responsibilities to no more than ten percent of total expenditure. Force the pinkos to cancel their empire-building pipe dreams that have nothing to do with the infrastructure of the region. Ten percent is more than enough to pay for libraries and parks.
  6. Require councils to reduce staffing levels by 30%. This is easily achievable by restricting the functions of local authorities to core requirements.
  7. Freeze rates for five years. With efficiencies from amalgamation, staff reduction, and a tight focus on core activities, there is no reason not to achieve this.
  8. Local government has no interest in creating competition in infrastructure services, and as the stadium debacle showed, councils are unable to separate their commercial interests from their civic interests. Require councils to sell off port and airport assets. The proceeds of the sales should be returned to individual ratepayers in annual installments over a ten year period. Ratepayers who would otherwise squeal that community assets are being sold and proceeds squandered by councils will be appeased by having the assets directly returned to them.
  9. Remove the building consents and RMA processes from local government. Instead, create one national organisation processing building consents. This will remove the vastly expensive inconsistencies between local authorities. Better yet, commercialise the consents processing entirely, and restrict the activity of a central agency to auditing and standards.
  10. Give the Minister of Local Government the authority to sack any council, and appoint a commissioner to sort out problems. The mere threat of intervention by the Minister will place a degree of restraint on their excesses.

Mark Blumsky, you have expressed frustration that you are unable to achieve anything as a National backbencher. Well, buddy, if you want to distinguish yourself, pull bloody finger and make a name for yourself by reforming one of the biggest fucking rorts in town.


libertyscott said...

Absolutely, unfortunately Blumsky never opposed the damnable Local Government Act 2002 which gave councils many of these powers, and Blumsky himself wasn't exactly a spendthrift as Mayor of Wellington.

I also require the core responsibilities to be operated by arms length organisations that have to deliver services efficiently and are allowed to have minority private investment to upgrade their infrastructure and operate in partnership.

Local democracy is a joke, almost everyone standing for it is a petty fascist of either the socialist or failed NZ first supporting businessman variety, wanting to put up monuments to his own mediocrity.

Insolent Prick said...

Smartly-run local government would have three or four infrastructure service providers competing to provide wastewater, water, and roading services to six large authorities. Then you get the scale as well as competitive pressures on price, which you don't have currently even with outsourced services because the purchasers are so fractured.

Water is already treated as a utility asset, and priced accordingly, with some of the larger councils.

I made reference to Labour's list candidate Judy Lawley in my "Real New Zealanders" post, which reads:

Judy Lawley: Full-time Waitakere City Councillor, “because the demands on city councillors are continually increasing with the ever-widening responsibilities”. Lists her key priorities as a city councillor as “Social issues - addressing poverty, good parenting, healthy communities with access to facilities for everyone, alcohol problems, crime, economic development, and education and training.” Doesn’t list roading, sewerage, or city infrastructure once. Former school teacher and PPTA delegate.

Your Honour, I rest my case.

bar said...

Dear IP: What seems to have escaped your notice is that these "local governments" are a filtering process for national government. It give the selectors a chance to assess the electability of individuals, whether they will take "baksheesh", have they an instinct for minority group politics etc.

(1) Dont you understand anything? LG was created specifically to be an object on which to "pass the buck".
(2) Reducing the count of councils might be a work. How would it affect the total value of bribes passed to the national government politicians?
(8) You should not sell off infrastructure monopolies, (except of course to mates) but contract management out. Having a monopoly is not something we should allow to any private enterprise. For instance, if I could have absolute ownership of 100 acres anywhere in NZ, I would choose an annulus circling Auckland. Then I would charge everybody who wanted to cross my strip of land say NZ$20.00 toll. I imagine that I would get very fucking rich very fucking quickly. Admittedly, it mightn't do the NZ economy much good. Airports and seaports are monopolies. They should be managed efficiently by private enterprise, at charges set by local government.
(9) & (10). In Oz, the greatest source of corruption for state & LG is issue of building permission. That is where the state government politicians get their election funding, and local governments are regularly sacked because they are giving permits to mates. From Oz experience, giving the minister the power to sack LG just gives the minister a larger share of the bribes.
The problem is, Democracy is corrupt. Open government is a joke. The system that seems to work best is the US model. That is because power there is decentralized. The PM of Australia has got more power in Australia than Bush has in America.

As a total non sequitur, I should point out that leading Australian politicians seem to retire to better paying positions than leading US politicians.

peterquixote said...

down here in south we grovelling over in gratitude because the council only going to increase rates by 7 per cent, gary moore said he sorry but they didn't collect enough in parking fine, and bob parker don't promise nothing except he said he promise he keep wearing pretty purple shirts with pink tie,