Mayor Lianne Dalziel is preventing the consideration of alternatives to  massive rates hikes and the fire sale of council-owned assets.

THE CHRISTCHURCH CITY COUNCIL has published another one of its 'information' leaflets. This one is a glossy number titled 'What's The Smart Choice?' and appeared in Christchurch mailboxes about a fortnight ago.

It is part of what the Council likes to describe as "the consultative process" over its proposed Long Term Plan (LTP). This process also includes eleven public meetings being held in various parts of the city. They began last week and will end mid April.

As well, people have the opportunity to make a submission on the LTP via the Council website.

The short time frame for consultation is inadequate but the outside observer will probably think that the Council's at least making an effort. After the dismal years of unaccountability from the Bob Parker - led council, here apparently is a council taking seriously its responsibility to inform and consult with the community it represents. We will be given our democratic say on the LTP. We will all be listened to.

Well, we might be have the opportunity to have our say but that doesn't mean the Council is under any obligation to do what we say.

We need to bear in mind that the LTP has only popped out of the Council bureaucracy after much of the discussion about it was held behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny.

One of the reasons for this is that the Council is proposing some unpopular financial measures including the partial sale of some, if not all, of the city's  assets and hiking up rates by over 30 percent over the next four years. There has already been some curt and angry responses to these proposals in the suburban newspapers and elsewhere. No doubt the Council would like to diffuse that anger by claiming  support for its proposals by arguing that the community has been fully consulted and is on board with the grand plan.

In language that recalls the political propaganda of Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Roger Douglas, the Mayor and some of her councillors are claiming that There Is No Alternative to measures like privatisation. Dalziel's support for hocking off the city's assets is ironic because, as a Labour MP, she forcibly spoke out against such privatisation.

Indeed she has been instrumental in preventing any investigation of alternatives to her solution to the council's alleged $1.2 billion shortfall.

The council admits that this is only an estimate and will not release details of how this figure was arrived at. It is an incredibly flexible figure. In August last year the Council was proposing "rates rises or asset sales to raise $400 million". In less than 12 months it had ballooned out to rates increases and asset sales of $750 million. What it might be in another twelve months is worrying - especially since the proposed LTP opens the door for the Council to "make further savings in the way we operate our services".

In February councillors Yani Johanson and Andrew Turner, expressing the concerns of the six People's Choice councillors, proposed:

“That the Council request staff to modify the draft financial strategy to include credible alternative options that save capital expenditure instead of releasing capital and increasing rates.”
Manji: Privatisation opponents are 'mischievous."

Dalziel ruled this resolution out of order. 

She might be asking 'What's the smart choice?' but she and her supporters like Raf Manji have already decided what the smart choice is. Manji, the chair of the Council's Finance committee and a former London stockbroker, has previously expressed concern that "often consultation is a one-way process."

He has recently been in the local media attacking council opponents of privatisation as "mischievous'". Last year he proposed selling off the Council's social housing stock, home to some of the city's poorest and most vulnerable people.

The consultation process surrounding the LTP is a one way process leading to a massive rates hike, the partial sale (to begin with) of the city's assets and further cutbacks. There are alternatives to this mad agenda, but the consultation process deliberately prevents the consideration of such alternatives. We did not accept the Bob Parker-led council running roughshod over the wishes of the community - we should also not accept it from Lianne Dalziel and her supporters on council either.


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