The new Christchurch City Council CEO, Dawn Baxendale, was involved in a austerity drive in her last job.

The Christchurch City Council will pay its new CEO, Dawn Baxendale , half a million dollars a year plus expenses. Mayor Lianne Dalziel claims she's the best person for the job but during her short time at the Birmingham City Council, Baxendale was involved in a campaign to slash council spending by some 54 million pounds by reducing council services. She might be the right person to oversee the Christchurch Council's corporate agenda but she'll provide little joy for the local community. Perhaps its time for a real change...

BACK IN 2012 the then CEO of the Bob Parker -led Christchurch City Council was the target of widespread criticism when he received a $60,000 salary increase. It prompted a 4,000 strong protest outside the offices of the Christchurch City Council. There was strong dissatisfaction with a Christchurch City Council that was seen as unaccountable, financially extravagant and conspicuously failing to represent the interests of the local community.

When Tony Marryatt left the council, in the midst of controversy and acrimony, he was on a salary of $538,000. This was very large salary in normal circumstances but Christchurch is a poor town where a lot of people struggle just to get by, and Marryatt's salary was regarded as beyond the pale by many.

But despite the fact that Mayor Bob Parker and his right-leaning council are long gone to be replaced by Mayor Lianne Dalziel and her centre-left leaning council, nothing much has changed. The council's new CEO, Dawn Baxendale, will be on a $495,000 salary apckage which is $80,000 more than her predecessor Karleen Edwards. She also pockets some $30,000 for relocation expenses from England.

A quarter of the Christchurch City Council, Yani Johanson, Deon Swiggs, Aaron Keown and James Gough, voted against the size of her salary package and all bar Johanson voted against her actual appointment.

However the right-leaning Aaron Keown and Jamie Gough were also loyal supporters of Bob Parker and Tony Marryatt and their opposition to Baxendale smacks a lot of political partisanship. Swiggs was not on the Council during the Parker era. Only Yani Johanson, who consistently opposed the direction of the Christchurch City Council under Parker and Marryatt, can be seen as having adopted a principled position in regards to Baxendale's salary.

No signs of the 'bustling'  Linwood Village in 2019....
Lianne Dalziel was a critic of both Bob Parker and Tony Marryatt and declared it was 'the right thing to do' when Maryatt announced his resignation. In 2013 she said she was shocked that Marryatt had taken another $68,000 rise after it had been put on hold after the 2012 protest.

"I'm speechless. What can I say to that? Gosh, that is just extraordinary. This will just be the final thing to leave a nasty taste in people's mouths. "said Dalziel.

But while its certainly true that the size of Baxendale's salary will be leaving 'a nasty taste in people's mouths', Dalziel herself is now singing from a different hymn sheet. She told Chris Lynch of Newstalk ZB this week that Baxendale's salary was 'appropriate' for the CEO of the country's second largest local authority.

'This was the salary expectation, and it wasn't out of reach of other salary expectations we were looking at. No-one likes it, but it is still over $40,000 less on an annual basis than what was being paid to the chief executive at the time I was elected to office six years ago.'

Dalziel told Lynch that Baxendale was the best person for the job : 'If it had been a New Zealander to do the job for half as much, they wouldn’t have been capable of being the chief executive for the Christchurch City Council.'

Baxendale, according to the Birmingham Worker, was deeply involved in a campaign by the Birmingham City Council (BCC) against council workers. The BCC plans to make £54 million in cuts in 2018-19, after raising council tax by almost 5 percent. Baxendale oversaw a 40 percent cut in the Council's homecare staff, a socially valuable service that allows folk to stay in their own homes. She also announced plans to introduce a 16-hour day for homecare workers but with them only getting paid for 11.

Baxendale was also involved in prolonged dispute with the city's refuse collectors, wasting some three million dollars on legal advice in the process.

'BCC says it needs to save cash, but not everyone at the council is feeling the pinch',  commented Socialist Worker in November last year, pointedly referring to Baxendale's reported £173,995 salary.

When she became mayor some six years ago, Dalziel promised a new era of accountability and transparency and an era where the financial extravagances of the Parker regime would be a thing of the past.

But instead Dalziel has been the mayor not of a council run by the local community and accountable to the local community, but a mayor sitting atop a large money-guzzling bureaucracy where a large and generously paid middle management implement and oversee a corporate-friendly agenda largely unresponsive to the wishes of the local community.

So, in a city suffering a serious lack of social housing, the Christchurch City Council has earmarked a massive $260 million  as its contribution toward the construction of an oversized 30-35,000 seat sports stadium in order to give the All Blacks and the Canterbury rugby teams somewhere more 'appropriate' to play - even through the present 17,000 seat stadium has rarely been full for any rugby match. And guess who will have to pick up the tab when the stadium consistently loses money? It certainly won't be the New Zealand Rugby Football Union or the Canterbury Rugby Football Union.

New Brighton: The suburb the Christchurch City Council forgot.
Similarly when the eastern suburbs, six years after the quakes, are still marred by broken and damaged roads and pavements, the Christchurch City Council has announced it is going to spend $36 million on a cycleway from Templeton to Christchurch.

Meanwhile the modern and bustling Linwood Village  that the Council promised in 2012, remains blighted by dilapidated buildings and empty lots.

And New Brighton seems to be another suburb out on the Eastside that the Christchurch City Council have forgotten about. Residents say the suburb remains a shadow of its former self and continues to be the victim of Council inaction.

'They tend to have meetings ... they bring out a pamphlet every five years' said one local resident of the Council last year. 'There is just nothing being done.'

Perhaps what Christchurch needs is a good dose of municipalism. It is a movement, typified by the work of Barcelona en Comú, that seeks to redefine the political arena and take power away from self serving and financially bloated bureaucracies and return it to the grassroots, to neighbourhoods, to local assemblies, to living rooms, to citizens.

'Local communities have the right to own their own cities and decide what is appropriate for them,' says David Harvey, author of Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution.

Christchurch could do with something like Barcelona en Comú's 'democratic revolution', not the continuation of an increasingly unrepresentative Christchurch City Council fronting for a bureaucracy increasingly unaccountable to anyone and which has been captured by a corporate agenda that is in conflict with community interests.


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