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Living Wage - higher costs, less diversity, job losses?

We've been looking into the claims by Auckland Council politicians relating to promises of a 'living wage' for Auckland Council employees.

An Auckland Council internal report obtained by the Taxpayers’ Union raises questions about the potential for job losses and casts the $3.75m price-tag for the policy into doubt. 

The Council’s report explains that the living wage is ‘not an effective, general tool for alleviating poverty’ and that ‘large proportions of minimum wage workers do not live in poor households.’

When you put aside the political rhetoric, the economic impact of the living wage policy will be disastrous for low-skilled Council workers, diversity and ratepayers according the Council’s own analysis.

If the Council’s aim is to reduce poverty, the report suggests that living wages for Council employees is not the way to do it.  According to the report, workers aged 15 - 24, women and ethnic minorities are over-represented in the category of people not earning more than $18.40 per hour. Artificially inflating Council wages may see less of these groups gaining future employment with the Council as competition for these positions increase.

In addition to increased competition for Council positions, the report indicates the potential for job losses and shows that workers may see overtime slashed.

The living wage policy will not only burden Aucklanders with higher rates, it also threatens Council workers with the prospect of job losses.  The true cost of the living wage policy may be much higher than the $3.75m quoted in the media.  For example, the Council’s analysis only considers workers within a 10% wage differential.  It has not factored in the potential for a domino effect of wage increases emanating from the introduction of the living wage.

We've uploaded the full report here.

Len Brown's Hong Kong trip confirmed

Len Brown's Hong Kong trip confirmed New Zealand Herald - 12/11/2013

The Taxpayers' Union was also upset about the release of details about Mr Brown's trip to Hong Kong.

Union executive director Jordan Williams said it appeared from LGOIMA requests to the council on the matter that council officers "deliberately misled'' about the existence of the trip to avoid scrutiny.

"In addition, Auckland Council staff have apparently been instructed not to speak about the particular trip and to refer all inquiries to the mayor's office,'' he said.

Politicians in the gun over taxpayer funded subsidies

ONE News (click the picture for video on demand)

Calls for MPs to declare property 'perk' One News - 11/11/2013

MPs' property loophole 'stings taxpayers' New Zealand Herald - 11/11/2013

The newly formed Taxpayers' Union, set up to "give Kiwi taxpayers a strong voice in the corridors of power", said it was shocked that the MPs were told to remove the relevant properties from their respective declaration of pecuniary interests.

Executive director Jordan Williams said the Registrar of Pecuniary Interests, which was Dame Margaret Bazley at the time, should ensure the public is fully informed.

"We are shocked that she has advised Ministers to withhold information, contrary to the purpose of the register.

"Today's revelations show that the MPs' Register of Pecuniary Interests is unfit for purpose and needs to be amended. These entitlements are stinging taxpayers in the pocket. There is no excuse for not ensuring that there is full transparency."

 

Secret parliamentary mortgage payments an entitlement too far

The Taxpayers’ Union has today welcomed the New Zealand Herald’s investigation revealing six MPs claiming $78,000 per year in taxpayer-funded subsidies for their investment properties.

The Taxpayers' Union believes that taxpayers are entitled to know what personal benefits and remuneration MPs receive.

The Herald reports that Simon Bridges was ‘given clear advice’ from Dame Margaret Bazley to take out the relevant properties from his declaration of pecuniary interests. We think that Dame Margaret should be doing everything she can to ensure the public is fully informed.  We are shocked that she has advised Ministers to withhold information, contrary to the purpose of the register.

Today’s revelations show that the MPs’ Register of Pecuniary Interests is unfit for purpose and needs to be amended.  These entitlements are stinging taxpayers in the pocket. There is no excuse for not ensuring that there is full transparency so that Kiwis can judge for themselves whether MPs entitlements are fair.

Taxpayers' Union offers prize to Aucklander with largest percentage rates increase

The Taxpayers’ Union this afternoon announced that it is offering a lawn mower to the householder who can provide evidence of the highest Auckland Council percentage increase in rates and user-charges.

We understand that some Auckland residents have suffered cumulative rate increases of over 30 per cent in the last few years.  At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services such as berm mowing.

We are worried that while Len Brown is hiding behind the ‘average’ figure of 2.5 per cent, this is merely an attempt to disguise just how much extra some Auckland households are paying.  It ignores, for example, increased user charges.

The proposed rate increase is almost double the rate of inflation.  Aucklanders should be expecting more, not less, services from their Council.

Our press release is available here.  

COMPETITION TERMS: 

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union Incorporated seeks rates and user-charge invoices for Council services showing the total uncapped percentage increase in rates and user-charges since the 2011/2012 baseline.  The resident who provides the largest percentage increase for the same property, as determined by the Taxpayers’ Union, will win.

Documentation must be sent to the Taxpayers’ Union, PO Box 10518, The Terrace, Wellington.  To be eligible, entries must be received before 5pm Friday 29 November 2013.

Entrants are only eligible to win the prize if they include their contact email and phone number on the documentation entered, are willing to certify the accuracy of the documentation provided and are willing to have their name publicly disclosed.

Please contact the Taxpayers’ Union (via tipline@taxpayers.org.nz) if you require further information.

The winner will receive a CraftMaster Petrol Lawnmower model KM375PM, or similar.

The Taxpayers’ Union decision on entitlement to the prize is final.

UPDATE: Please scan and email your entries to tipline@taxpayers.org.nz as any sent by post will no longer arrive in time.

Nearly $3m for NZTA to treat drivers like children

The Taxpayers’ Union can reveal that the New Zealand Transport Authority's 'Drive Social' campaign cost taxpayers $1,492,395 on advertising, $985,019 on communications and advertising consultancy fees and $301,872 in other related costs.  This website alone cost $186,142.

The 'Drive Social' campaign was organised by NZTA to educate road-users that they “share the road with other drivers” and instructs them to “be considerate” (we're not making this up!).

We think that the funds for these sort of self-evident campaigns would be better spent on improving roads or preventing drink driving.  The Taxpayers’ Union asked the NZTA to provide cost-benefit analysis of the campaign. Instead, it could only provide us the costs to the taxpayer and ‘media monitoring’ reports.

We can all support advertising efforts to reduce the road toll, but here is an agency spending nearly three million dollars to tell drivers that there are other drivers on the road.  It’s bureaucrats spending our money to treat us like children.

Complete with a condescending tone and nursery rhyme-like music the ‘Drive Social’ website would insult the intelligence of most drivers.  Judge for yourself at www.drivesocial.co.nz.

Here is an example of one of the campaign billboards:

Drive social billboard

The Nation on the Taxpayers' Union

Union not a party in the making The Nation - 2/11/2013

Union not a party in the making The National Business Review - 2/11/2013

The country’s newest union will never become a political party, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union co-founder.

Jordan Williams, who co-founded the union with Kiwiblog’s David Farrar, said it was a bottom line of his involvement that the union wouldn’t become a political party - and if it ever became one, he would leave.

 

Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough Express covers the figures on website spending released by the Taxpayers' Union
showing that Marlborough District Council spend three times as much as Nelson / Tasman / West Coast combined.

Council website 'astronomical' cost 'Marlborough Express - 31/10/2013

Council website 'astronomical' cost

The Marlborough District Council has spent more than $400,000 on website redevelopment over the past two years, nearly three times as much as Nelson, Tasman and the West Coast put together.
Figures released by the Taxpayers' Union show that only Auckland Council has spent more than Marlborough on website upgrades since July 2011.
Councils of a similar size to Marlborough, like Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt and Wanganui, have all spent less than $15,000.
In comparison, Dunedin City Council spent only $35,520 over the same time period.
Wellington City, which redeveloped its award winning website earlier in the year, spent almost $100,000 less than Marlborough.
Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams said the astronomical amount was potentially a huge waste of ratepayer money.
''Even if we assume that half of Marlborough's residents have actually visited the site, it would probably have been cheaper for the council to pay for a taxi for them to visit the office.''
Council acting chief executive Mark Wheeler defended the spend, saying figures released by the union were not comparing apples with apples.
The council had undertaken a major upgrade, involving the design and development of three separate websites, in the last two years, while Dunedin, for example, might not have carried out any, Mr Wheeler said.
''Maybe they will do it next year, or did it five years ago,'' he said.
''You cannot compare how much has been spent over two years and say one is more efficient than the other.''
The figures did not take into consideration the services being provided on the websites, Mr Wheeler said.
The total cost of $410,550 covered the redesign of the council's website and the electronic access to property files, the development of an on-line payment and application system, the redesign of the separate Marlborough District Libraries website, which serves Blenheim and Picton, and the establishment of a Marlborough Youth website, he said.
Providing on-line access to thousands of property, building and resource consent files held by council was a major project and involved much more than a few tweaks to the existing website.
''The work is an important part of the council strategy to improve on-line customer service and, in fact, the on-line file access has been a first for local government in New Zealand.''
Other councils would likely have to follow Marlborough's lead over the coming years, he said.
Mr Williams said the amount spent by Marlborough District Council on its three websites was still excessive.
''Even if we did divide the amount by a third, the amount spent by Marlborough District Council is still astronomical compared to other councils of equivalent size,'' he said.
The Taxpayers' Union website cost $7000 to develop, Mr Williams said.
''We cannot figure out how they spent so much, even on three websites,'' he said.
''It's a nice website but it's not space age.''

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