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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Kate Follows Celia – Fudge the Budget

Wellington City Council’s Draft 2011/12 Annual Plan is out now!

I know everyone’s super stoked and already read it all, like, three times over. It’s Celia’s first Annual Plan, so it’s quite understandable that you’re excited about it. But don’t worry if everyone around you can’t stop talking about it, when you haven’t even glanced at it yet. This column will give you a starting point to join the conversation.

The Annual Plan outlines what WCC are doing and how it’s being paid for. Money collected comes mostly from rates. Further revenue is collected from user charges, property lease income, dividends, grants and government subsidies. Spending is split into operational and capital.

Operational spending is planned at $366m. Apparently the economy’s still a bit shit, so ‘efficiencies’ are being adopted. Efficiencies make me think budget cuts, and my left-wing instinct comes out and I automatically think “no!”. $6m has been cut.

All the operational cuts consist of just shaving bits off really. Examples include more efficient lawn mowing ($10k), reducing the grant to Wellington Sculpture Trust ($15k), and pest control monitoring reductions ($14k). Savings are also made by deferring a few projects, such as expanding the Biodiversity Action Plan ($14k), cutting down hazardous trees ($100k), and demolishing the jetty at Evans Bay ($100k).

The cut that annoys me the most is the decreasing of Central Library weeknight opening hours from an 8.30pm to a 7pm close. This saves a measly $57,000 per year. To me, the library is a haven, and to cut its funding is a sin. It’s a fundamental part of the city, even until 8.30pm on a weekday.
User charges have been increased for a whole bunch of services. Going against my natural reaction, I’m largely in support of this. For one, it means that if you use the service, you pay for it. This is good for me because I don’t use the services that are facing charge increases—swimming pools, recreation centres, building consents and inspections, among others.

Despite these cuts to operational spending, capital expenditure is at $152m ($8m more than planned)—which is a little bit hypocritical, looking at the cuts they’re making elsewhere. What are they spending money on, you ask? Water infrastructure, housing developments (funded by central government mind), transport upgrades… the usual.

Wellington City Councillor Iona Pannett acquired an extra 65 per cent for the Heritage Grants fund, bringing annual spending to $329k—which is a fair bit. All so rich people who own heritage homes can keep them looking good.

$650,000 is being spent on a feasibility study for a new deep water pool at the Wellington Regional Aquatic Centre. I dislike feasibility studies in general—surely a company would give you a quote for free?

So what am I going to do about the council cutting funding to the Library? I’m going to make a submission, because it’s only a draft plan at the moment. Submissions are open until this Thursday, 12 May. Productive procrastination FTW.

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  1. Greg says:

    That feasibility price tag is *huge*. For that money, they’ re probably going further into the initial design phase. If so, that would mean that the councillor backing it probably expects that it’s a done-deal, which makes you wonder why there’s a feasibility study in the first place. Further, does anyone know what the expanded swimming pool is going to do to the cost per swim? Are swimmers willing to pay an extra couple bucks per day?

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