Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Expert advice to find budget savings

Christchurch City Council Chief Executive, Dawn Baxendale (pictured) says many of the changes recommended to Council by an external advisory group are now being acted on.

“While the External Advisory Group’s report has yet to be made public, its findings have been shared with elected members and have helped to inform their decision-making on the Draft 2021-31 Long Term Plan,’’ Mrs Baxendale said this week.

The External Advisory Group (EAG) was set up in early 2020 to provide independent, expert advice to elected members as they developed the LTP – the document that sets out the city’s priorities for the next 10 years.

The EAG, which was chaired by former Mayor Garry Moore, was asked to focus on reviewing cost drivers and identifying potential savings for the organisation.

It provided a report to the Chief Executive in October 2020 which contained a number of recommendations on how the Council could save money and be more responsive to residents’ needs.

The report’s findings were shared with the Mayor and Councillors so they could be factored into their discussions on the LTP, but the report was not released publicly at the time because it included recommendations which related to Council staff and their employment.

“It was always planned that the EAG report, and my response to it, would be discussed by the Council early in June 2021,” Mrs Baxendale said.

“This discussion will take place in the public excluded section of the 3 June Council meeting, with the expectation that the two reports will be released after that, with some redactions to protect people’s privacy.

“Sixty per cent of the recommendations from the EAG have been built into our Draft Long Term Plan and the other recommendations are still being looked at.

“Many of the recommendations from the EAG have helped us to achieve about $18 million worth of savings and there is potential for another $30 million-plus to be saved as a result of the changes they have suggested.

“We have spent $99,803 on the EAG Report, primarily for the professional fees of the group’s members. This is money well spent given the quantity of potential savings they have helped identify.”

The members of the EAG met on a fortnightly basis, with the Chair and Deputy Chair of Council’s Finance Performance Committee, for nine months.

“They are professionals who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. I really appreciate the work they have put in to helping us through these difficult financial times,’’ Mrs Baxendale said.

The members of the EAG were Garry Moore, a former Mayor and an accountant, Louise Edwards, a professional director and accountant, Mark Christison, an infrastructure expert from Fulton Hogan, Jen Crawford, a professional director and resource management lawyer, and Michelle Sharp, the Chief Executive at UNICEF NZ.

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