English slates council finances
The Christchurch City Council is not being open with the Government about its finances, says Finance Minister Bill English.
If a business were in the council's situation, it would be in danger of receivership, he said.
But the council did not understand its predicament, English told the annual Family Help Trust fundraiser in Christchurch yesterday.
Mayor Bob Parker said the comment was "frankly outrageous", disrespectful of the council and contradicted two financial strategies released in the past two years.
English said the city council may not be able to meet its 40 per cent share of the cost to rebuild infrastructure, but it was not providing the Government with the information needed to plan a compromise.
"I'd have to say they are not reaching the benchmark of co-operation. When such a large chunk [of money] is coming from Government, we would expect an open book, because technically - if they were a business - they would be put into receivership and we would be the creditor to do it."
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) were "endlessly patient" with the council, English said.
"But as the cheque writer, I'm getting very impatient."
He has asked his officials for council information and they had been unable to provide it because they could not get the answers from the local authority, he said.
"The reply I got was the council is careful around its information."
It was not about the council bending to the Government's way, but being open enough to negotiate, he said.
"The city council has a long way to go to understand the need for transparency and openness when you don't have the money and you're relying on someone else to pay for [the rebuild]."
Parker said he believed English was incorrect. The council developed a publicly notified financial strategy last year and released another budget in June setting out the money it had and where it would be spent, he said.
"You can't be much more open than that.
"We have not, at any time, been unable to meet any request from Government officials."
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