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Fees and charges limit set

A 30 percent limit on increased fees and charges has been recommended by the District Council finance and audit committee.

The committee was having another look at the proposed fees and charges scheduled for 2019/20 which had been sent back to it by the full council where the level of the proposed increases was queried.

Chief financial officer Pauline Foreman said the 30 percent cap was only affecting one area and was not across all fees and charges. It occurred in some of the regulatory functions. The majority of costs were only raised by the rate of inflation.

Also the fees and charges were to reflect what the service cost. Previously the fees charged did not take account of the true costs. This was to ensure that the person benefitting from the service was charged the appropriate amount rather than the costs falling on the general ratepayer.

The true cost of the service was greater than the cap of 30 percent but this cap was recommended to spread the impact over a number of years rather than occurring in one year.

The committee decided to recommend to the council that fees be increased up to a limit of 30 percent, excluding wastewater, which is to be accepted as proposed in the schedule.

It also recommended that CAR (corridor access requests, any work that affects the normal operation of the road or berm) fees be increased by the rate of inflation.

The recommendation also includes that the fees and charges document include a note that fees related to theatre additional charges such as electricity are subject to change and may be updated at any time of the year based on actual costs the council incurs.

The committee was told that the council relied on the income from fees and charges to do its business. They had not been adjusted for some time and the deficit between the cost and what was recovered was growing.

Shannon Dowsing raised questions about council efficiency and asked if the ability to pay had been considered.

Chairman Brian Wilson said management had said these were the costs of these services and the council needed to significantly raise charges in some areas. It could decide to make the increases over a period of time or put a cap on them.

Staff would say they were acting efficiently, they had been doing this for a long time and by the look of things charges were not out of kilter with other councils.

If the charges were not increased someone else would have to pick up the cost.

Chief executive Nedine Thatcher Swann said the financial strategy was about ensuring that the beneficiaries paid for the services they received.

What this was doing was aligning the true fees with the true cost, given that the council was 10 years behind. Affordability was another issue that would be dealt with by rates and the 5 percent level.

She would prefer not to discuss staff efficiency in public because it was a sensitive issue.

Meredith Akuhata Brown said it appeared the council was behind the eight ball on recovering costs but people would say “whose fault is that?”.

Business people were saying the council made things too hard but these were the actual costs of services.

There was going to be some pushback from businesses.

Independent adviser Robert Hunter said the council had to protect the city’s small businesses which were fragile, and it must do what it could to encourage the development of its ratepayer base and not put people off subdividing properties.