Auckland Council must avoid unnecessary and harmful cutbacks

With hundreds of permanent staff facing redundancy at Auckland Council and its associated organisations, Public Service Association members are prepared to explore all reasonable options to save money, maintain community services and protect jobs.

While the 3.5% rates increase is a sensible decision that avoids catastrophic cuts to public transport, road safety and facilities for children and the elderly, the PSA remains concerned that Auckland Council is rushing its response to the recession.

“This evening there have been wildly different figures bandied about by Council representatives and media commentators regarding the number of people who could lose their jobs,” says PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay.

“The Council is not some abstract monolith. It is made up of hard working, decent people, who try to raise families and earn a living in Auckland just like everyone else. Suddenly throwing out massively inflated, speculative figures about job cuts causes unnecessary pain and stress for council workers.”

The union calls on Auckland Council to urgently schedule a meeting so both parties can discuss the implications of the council’s budget decision.

“We live in the real world. These are difficult times and our members will work with the Council to minimise costs as we ride out this recession, but we need the Council to work with us,” says Mr Barclay.

“Workers are a lot more likely to endorse pay restraint if an employer promises to protect jobs in exchange. The council is engaging with us and we welcome that, but we need real commitments on the table.”

The PSA is disappointed to see lobbyists like the ‘Auckland Ratepayers Alliance’ describe the 3.5% rates increase as a betrayal.

“What would have been a betrayal is if Auckland Council had slashed and burned their way through our libraries and bus services. The wealthiest few may not rely on council services, but most ordinary working people do,” says Mr Barclay.

“We are pleased the most short-sighted and extremist budget proposals were rejected. Auckland’s growing population and crumbling infrastructure needs investment, not abandonment. Council workers are essential to get this job done.”

The Local Government Funding Agency recently relaxed its restrictions on council borrowing and the Auditor General told councils now is an appropriate time to consider more debt, widening the range of available options to avoid cutbacks and austerity.

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