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Council must 'live within its means'

A REVIEW of Gisborne District Council’s finances showed the need for the council to plan its capital works programme better and live within its budget, the finance and audit committee was told.

The committee was discussing a financial review prepared by Price Waterhouse Coopers that made a number of recommendations including improving forecasting practices, determining a more sustainable rates profile, and addressing some of the operational expenditure deficits. The committee, which comprises the full council, decided to receive the report.

Chairman Brian Wilson said because some key projects did not go ahead, the income and the capital programme were down. That was not so much a problem of budgeting but of delivering the projects.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said staff were progressing a number of the recommendations in the review including better forecasting around the capital works programme.

Mr Wilson said one obvious area was that roading budgets were “way out". They knew the issues around that and steps were being undertaken to correct it.

Graeme Thomson said the council had too many projects in the past five years. Theatres and libraries needed doing up but the council had them all in the same 10-year plan.

“It just seems that in the past few years we have had a wish list that is never-ending.”

He knew there was a plan for the future but some of the recent planning he had seen would mean an unsustainable rates profile.

“It might be sustainable to cover the projects but it won’t be sustainable for the community,” he said.

Financial controlsMr Wilson said these recommendations were looking at financial controls.

Shannon Dowsing said he had noted that Gisborne had a significantly lower rating unit, approximately $500 less than the median for other unitary authorities.

But it did not make any note of the affordability to pay in the region.While the council had lower debt, it was in the non-rateable income that they were suffering.

He queried whether the review included non-rateable income such as grants. Gisborne was behind other unitary authorities in this respect.

Every other unitary authority had a much greater capacity and security for their community. It was in the asset base they had retained and Gisborne had not done that.

A consideration of this issue was how the council worked with Eastland Community Trust and Gisborne Holdings Ltd, who were the holder of those major assets.

Mr Wilson said he would keep a note of the recommendations and make sure the council was working on them.

Mr Dowsing said the report had confirmed the assumptions of staff and councillors and hopefully they could make some good progress.

Larry Foster said it was all about budgeting. The council had to set a budget and stick to it instead of having surpluses and deficits all the time.

Bill Burdett said this was a good report that showed the council must live within its means.

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