Mayors to hold greater sway

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 15:19 27/09/2013

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Local mayors will be granted greater powers following this year’s local body elections.

Under the new legislation mayors will be able to appoint their own deputies, determine the structure of council committees and appoint the committee chairs.

They will also have more of a say over annual plans and council budgets and will face greater accountability as a result.

Lawrence Yule, the President of Local Government New Zealand, said the new powers gave them similar control to that awarded to the mayor of Auckland following the creation of the supercity.

Mayors can still be voted down by councillors if the mayor cannot convince councillors to follow his or her vision, however.

“Not only would that strengthen a mayor’s leadership, it would also help voters to hold the mayor and council accountable for its direction and decisions.”

Yule said the new legislation would speed council actions up post-elections as it would take less time to make appointments and set priorities.

“We are advising chief executives to encourage mayors and councillors to hold workshops to establish committees as soon as possible after the elections. As long as the mayor has majority support, he or she will be able to quickly select the team they want.”

Labour’s Local Government spokesman Su’a William Sio said he had some concerns about the granting of executive powers with their success largely dependent on the type of mayor.

‘‘The fact is there’s still some balance there with the mayor still having to convince the rest of the councillors whether they are okay with the future vision and they are okay with the future direction and the priorities that the mayor stipulates or works out.’’

He said he had not made up his mind on the effects of the new powers in Auckland and wanted to see a review of their impact.

Sio said the country seemed to be moving away from participatory local democracy and community input in decision making.

‘‘I don’t think that we’ve as a country had a good enough discussion about these things and about the role of local Government.’’

The National Government was treating local authorities as an extension of the central public sector, he said.

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