Opinion by Councillor Cameron Brewer
I was surprised to read in the council’s latest Annual Report that at 30 June Auckland Council’s total staff (FTEs) number was estimated at 8,040, up from 7,200 in the previous financial year.
That’s an increase of 840 staff or 12% in just 12 months which is a real worry. Mayor Len Brown has failed to deliver on one of the big amalgamation promises and that was to do more with less staff.
The Mayor likes to give the impression that he has reduced staff numbers, but the reality is we’re seeing the numbers creep up, with the annual wage bill now at $670m. These numbers make worrying reading for ratepayers who were promised less staff across the region, not more.
In addition to staff numbers increasing by 12% in the last financial year, 1,165 staff were paid in excess of $100,000, and total council debt grew by a whopping $1 billion. In these trying economic times, it’s a very bad look for any public sector organisation.
Looking back on 2012, Aucklanders should be worried that the Mayor has failed to take advantage of the one-off economic opportunities the amalgamation presented. It’s going to be increasingly hard for a new mayor or council to dial all this back.
Another concern is that CCO staff numbers are outpacing the rest of council. The council-controlled organisations need to be reined in, but the Mayor seems happy to blindly accept their payroll escalations. The territorial empires that emerged when we had eight councils are seemingly now being replaced by departmental ones.
It’s also important to note that these are not 8,040 individuals. Rather this is the number of full-time equivalents (FTEs), with one FTE sometimes being made up of two or three part-timers. So the actual number of individuals claiming a pay packet is more than 8,040. What’s more, this number does not take into account the many consultants and contractors on the council’s books.
The Mayor has been keen to take the softly softly approach on staff numbers, but we’re now into our third financial year and it’s time to put the numbers and wage bill under the microscope.
Source: 2011/12 Auckland Council Annual Report – Volume 3, “Our People”, page 143, ‘staff numbers’ table (attached). Salaries and wages, page 61.