Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Hamilton council to consult public on cutting costs

Hamilton City Council is set to ask residents what services they’re willing to cut to realise staff and consultancy savings put forward by Elected Members.

The Council says it will consider reduced levels of community and back-office services following an Elected Member initiative to cut staff and consultancy budgets.

A motion passed at today’s Council meeting sets out further reductions to personnel, which are expected to save $10.4 million in 2026/27, and $104 million over the 10 years of the Long-Term Plan.

“The cuts are likely to mean reductions to the services that Council provides to the community, and its internal operations. The particular activities that could be removed or reduced would be identified and confirmed over the coming months,” Council said in a statement.

“If progressed, reductions would start to be made from midway through the 2025/26 financial year (July to June), with savings in that year of $2.1 million after redundancy costs are met.

“The reductions are in addition to the $7 million in savings delivered in 2024/25 by previous and current staff restructures which have seen 68 roles removed so far, with more to come before 1 July.”

Through its draft Long-Term Plan consultation, residents will be asked about the Council services they are willing to see be reduced, or stopped altogether.

Chief Executive, Lance Vervoort said the ongoing staff restructures were about delivering existing services as efficiently as possible.

“Any further cuts to personnel will impact on what the community receives from Council. Based on what we hear through the consultation, Elected Members will face some difficult calls about what those service reductions could be,” he said.

“It’s too early to say in what areas there could be cutbacks. We want to get this right, so if the cuts make it into the final Long-Term Plan, we’ll be looking to go back to the community through our 2025/26 Annual Plan early next year.”

Council also adopted an updated draft Long-Term Plan with waters services included in all 10 years, at today’s meeting.

Following today’s decisions, Council is proposing rates increases in the first five years of the Long-Term Plan of 19.9% ($10.90 per week or $567 a year for a median value property), followed by four years of 15.7% increases.

Rather than target balancing its books against the central government measure in 2024/25, this would now be achieved against Council’s measure in 2026/27.

Council’s consultation on its draft Long-Term Plan is scheduled for March/April this year.

“I agree that double digit rates rises are not sustainable or affordable for large parts of our community, that’s why I initially proposed a smaller rates increase,” said Hamilton Mayor, Paula Southgate.

“I am open to exploring all options to reduce costs for Council and consumers, however, it is important to recognise that further staff reductions will lead to the reduction of significant Council services, which make our city a great place to live.

“We need to consider all the facts, so our community feel empowered to make an informed decision,” she said.

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