Too much political power in too few hands – “sheer size” of Auckland Council

Opinion from David Thornton of No More Rates
The news that Auckland Council Chief Executive, Doug McKay, is paid an annual salary of $750,000 should not come as a surprise. Mr McKay is responsible for managing a staff of 8,000, including the Council Controlled Organisations [CCOs], and a capital and operating budget of well over $3 billion.

However the report that 1,165 staff are paid $100,000 is surprising as that represents 14% of the total of 8,000 employees.

These salary figures are directly related to the sheer size of the organisation, the largest local authority in the Southern Hemisphere, and larger than any local authority in Europe, and possibly any country which operates on the English style of local councils.

That size has presented a real problem for the Mayor and Councillors, none of whom had any experience of governance of such a huge organisation. This was a significant challenge facing newly elected members and it must be said that this first Council has failed to meet that challenge.

The record of political decision-making during these first two years has provoked strong anti-council feelings among ratepayers and residents. The root of the problem is that too much political decision-making power has been placed in too few hands,

The Chief Executive is paid to manage the organisation, which, in my experience is functioning reasonably well in terms of the mechanisms required for such a large organisation.

But the political representation needs an urgent review, particularly in respect of the ability of ratepayers and residents to influence decision-making.

A stronger representative structure, with more control passing down to purely local levels, would start to put the ‘local’ back into local government.

And bringing back some of the CCOs under direct council control should reduce the number of six-figure salary earners.

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