Local Councils to be Accountable

A bill introduced to parliament recently could see ratepayers’ control of council activity strengthened, making councils more accountable to their constituents.

Minister of Local Government, the Hon Rodney Hide, commented that the Local Government Act 2002 is being amended to give ratepayers clearer and better quality information on the work of local councils, providing them with the tools required to better influence local government decisions.

“All councils must now produce a pre-election report outlining financial performance over the last three years, as well as financial plans and projects across the next three years,” Mr Hide said.

“Ratepayers will be pleased to see the Bill contains measures such as a financial strategy with limits on rates and debt to ensure council costs, rates and activities are better controlled,” he added.

“Plain English financials will ensure ratepayers can understand what they are paying for and how, and additional financial disclosures will also be required to provide them with more detailed information.”

Another improvement noted by Mr Hide is the standardisation of reporting so that ratepayers can more easily make comparisons between councils.

“For example, a common definition of rates income will be adopted, and all councils will be required to separately report on those infrastructural activities that consume the largest proportion of council budgets,” he said.

Mr Hide concluded by saying ultimately, this should make councils nationwide far more accountable for their actions.

Such accountability will also provide owners and buyers with an excellent tool for a more accurate assessment of the ongoing financial commitment that property requires, on top of mortgage costs.

It may assist also borrowers to better purchase within their means, and investors may also benefit from better cost-management of their property.