Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nats want to give local government more "tools"

Whilst central government is clearly the growing leviathan in our lives, one should never forget the petty fascists in local government. The ones that use the RMA, bylaws and your rates (if you're a property owner, sorry tenants you don't pay rates, your landlord does). Rates rise most years in many councils, and do so faster than inflation and faster than tax. Remember that these rates are nominal on TOP of years of increasing property prices. You might wonder why councils have to spend money at an ever increasing rate, and why your vote every three years makes little difference.

I put it down to many of those who stand for local government, they are busybody do-gooders who think if they have some statist power to regulate, tax and spend, they can do their little bit to "make the world a better place" rather than just leave peaceful people alone. Comparatively few people who want less government stand for local government - partly because they are concentrating on their own lives, jobs, businesses and families, but also because the ability to do much about constraining local government is relatively low. The recently elected Auckland City Council has started to be more frugal in some respects, but still there hasn't been a wholesale rollback of local government since central government reforms of the late 80s, early 90s.

Labour whilst in power reformed local government to give it more powers - specifically known as "the power of general competence", allowing it to do as it wishes on any area of activity, excluding a tiny handful reserved for central government. In other words, local government could provide welfare benefits, healthcare, schools, run restaurants, railways, racecourses, radio stations, whatever it wishes. So it is no wonder local government has continued to grow.

So you might think National could reverse that and at least limit local government to core "public goods". Well this is what John Key had to say to Local Government New Zealand...

"We want to give local government a broader range of tools that can be used to address the needs of local communities. These options could involve increased use of partnerships, charging arrangements, and longer-term financing."

OK so a generous view would be allowing private investment in infrastructure. Well fine, forget Public Private Partnerships and go for privatisation. However charging arrangements? What does that mean? Does he mean new taxes? Why not simply cut what local government does John? Get it out of the provision of services that can be done privately.

Then he says, not only will he provide new tools but:

"We will also look at more appropriate ways to ensure that local government knows what central funding and other support it would receive for undertaking new responsibilities. A National Government will not be looking for a free ride at the expense of ratepayers"

He wants local government to do more and charge taxpayers everywhere to do it!

Now he also said "we need to ensure that taxpayers’ money and ratepayers’ money is being used effectively and efficiently." This implies some central government oversight of local authority spending, which may be a rather bureaucratic way of saying "no".

However, there is a point where in his speech you think he MIGHT get it:

"People are struggling with rising costs and an economy that is going backwards. Households are tightening their belts, and in turn they expect that central government and local government – which take money off them through taxes and rates – should be tightening their belts as well, and should be striving to deliver them value for money."

but NOOOOO. He doesn't....

"This environment puts real pressure on politicians, both local and central. But it also gives us an opportunity to look at how we can most effectively provide the services that people expect from us. Over the next few years we will need to concentrate on the basics – on providing good services where people want them, and at a reasonable cost."

Concentrate on the basics MIGHT imply what I said earlier, so maybe he'll be honest with us - the ratepayers and say he wants to cut the size of local government.

What do you reckon? Does he record suggest anything will change? Here are some pointers about what SHOULD change.


KG said...

A minor nit-pick Scott--those who rent DO pay rates. The landlord simply adds that cost when calculating the rent.

KG said...

And on the subject of giving local government more tools--the only tools I'd give them is a length of hemp rope with which to hang themselves.
After spending three months fighting the local council for permission to build a simple carport on my own property, I reckon the last thing these petty fascists need is to be given even more power.

Anonymous said...

This prick makes my eyes glaze over every time he opens his bloody mouth .. it's just a constant recipe of whining socialism.

"Broader range of tools", "we're going to ensure that taxpayers' money isn't wasted", "work more efficiently", blah blah, wank wank. Can you give a negative mark for originality?

And people believe this shit. I don't give a bugger how much money he's got, he's still a prick - and more & more irritating by the day.

No apology for bad language. Trust me: I was containing myself! :)

Libertyscott said...

kg, yes I know what you mean BUT that is like saying you pay company tax if you buy a company's products. The landlord pays rates regardless of whether the property is rented.