Council identifies new cuts

A Dunedin City Council facing unpopular rates rises, and fresh from election promises of financial prudence, will tomorrow start discussing a staff report that has identified $794,300 of cuts for the next financial year.

The proposals follow resolutions from the council calling for more savings than the $4 million slashed from the budget at the end of last year.

So far, at least, they have been delivered without too much pain for staff, council projects, or service levels, but Mayor Dave Cull was adamant last night more cuts would come.

The report, from council financial planner Carolyn Howard, will go to the city's annual plan hearings deliberations, due to start tomorrow morning.

The council began considering the year's finances after a cost-cutting drive led by former chief executive Jim Harland late last year aimed at slashing $6 million from the council's spending.

The drive eventually trimmed $4 million, and the council now faces a 7.5% rates rise.

Mr Cull indicated he considered that too high, and a February 7 decision by the council set up departmental review groups to work with acting chief executive Athol Stephens to identify operational savings to reduce costs.

Before that, they were to work with Mr Stephens to find savings for this year's annual plan, with those savings to have a minimal impact on service levels.

Ms Howard's report said as many of the 41 reductions found were ongoing, $7.1 million would be saved over the next 10 years.

Mr Cull said he expected the report held the last of the savings for this year's plan. Further cuts from departmental reviews would have to wait until 2012.

While the results were "gratifying", more had to come, and that would take time.

The largest saving for the next year was $200,000 from water and waste services.

That included savings from using in-house provision of mechanical and electrical services, rationalising the way chemicals were bought, and from increased rental income.

Other savings in that department included $50,000 a year for reducing water pressure and $50,000 a year from longer "response times".

Asked about the apparent ease of finding the savings when the pre-Christmas cost-cutting drive had been so recently completed, water and waste services manager John Mackie yesterday said he had been calling for the changes for years.

To agree to the savings would require "spirit and fortitude", as there would be complaints.

Chemicals, worth about $1.5 million, had been bought by three separate council entities - water and waste, aquatic services and Delta Utility Services.

Water pressure in Dunedin was too high in some areas, and could be easily lowered, although some residents would complain, Mr Mackie said.

The savings would include less water and fewer chemicals being used, and fewer leaks and breaks in pipes.

Not filling a retiring building control officer's position was expected to save $74,000 and retaining the parking officer vacancy $30,000.

Customer services identified a $35,000 saving if the i-Site Visitor Centre was shifted to another Princes St address, as it had suggested, and marketing communications found $25,000 by deferring buying Christmas decorations.

Finance, strategy and development chairman Cr Syd Brown said a new chief executive, when appointed, would have a mandate from the council to make long-term changes, with support and co-operation from senior staff essential.


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