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Friday the last day to get entries in for Auckland rates competition

Entries close tomorrow for our competition for the householder who can provide evidence of the highest percentage increase in Auckland Council rates and user-charges.  The prize is a lawnmower - just perfect for mowing those berms.

At the same time the Auckland Council is reducing services, a quick flick through the 50 or so entries we've have in so far, show many rates and user charge increases well over the 10% "cap".

The terms and conditions are available here.

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

Update: Auckland Council finally responds to allegations of lying about Mayoral trip to China

Well it's taken a few weeks, but Auckland Council has finally responded to the Taxpayers' Union 'please explain' letter regarding a reported instruction by the Mayor's Chief of Staff, Phil Wilson, to refer all enquires about a secret January 2013 Mayoral trip to China to his office, and appears to be a misleading response to our enquiry about the trip under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

To recap, after a tip-off that there was inappropriate expenditure on a mayoral trip to China in early 2013, we asked the Council for the identify of the person who we were informed was responsible for the spending.  It is our practise to use official information channels and verify any information we receive via our tip-line (or otherwise). We were told that the last trip was in 2012. April 2012.

No mention was made of the early 2013 trip.

As has been widely reported, we now know that the January 2013 did indeed happen.

A few weeks ago we spoke to an official at the Auckland Council who told us that  the Council had misled us and implied that she was instructed that all requests from the Taxpayers’ Union relating to the January 2013 China trip, be directed to Mr Wilson.

But instead of explaining the inconsistency, Mr Wilson has today emailed a veiled threat that our statements are "being monitored and reviewed through legal channels".

We've copied the emails into the post. Click read more to view them.

Taxpayers' Union on MP's pay rise

AUDIO: Politicians "don't deserve" payrise RadioLIVE - 22/11/2013

Politicians' pay rises and more on way DominionPost - 22/11/2013

Jordan Williams, executive director of the Taxpayers' Union, said MPs were getting a "Christmas bonus" at a time when the Government was borrowing millions of dollars a day to cover its spending.

He said Errington's comments about the gap to executive pay were "deeply concerning" and seemed to overlook the nature of ministerial roles.

"By pegging MPs' remuneration to the private sector, you're effectively saying they're in a job. Well, for MPs, it's not a job, you're not even a bureaucrat.

"It is public service and the Remuneration Authority seems to have forgotten that," he said.

MPs don't deserve pay rise - Taxpayers' Union Yahoo News - 22/11/2013

Community service key to MPs' happiness Waikato Times - 22/11/2013

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.


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