McGurk promises to put lid on rates

Nelson mayoral candidate Brian McGurk says if elected he will hold any rates increase to 1 per cent or less, but opponents say the proposal lacks detail.

The senior police commander announced his intention to stand for the mayoralty and the council in February, saying a "growing gap" between the council and the community was behind the decision.

He has only been joined by councillor Rachel Reese in the race for the mayoralty, with Mayor Aldo Miccio expected to announce his decision later this week.

Mr McGurk said yesterday under his leadership Nelson City Council would be financially responsible, with any rates increase at 1 per cent or less in the first year, and less than 6 per cent for the whole term.

The 2013-2014 draft annual plan included a proposed average rates rise of 2.4 per cent.

Mr McGurk said the latest council annual report for the year ending June 30 last year said the average annual rise in rates and charges over the past decade was 6.9 per cent, and the current council had put up rates far more than 6 per cent in its three-year term.

He also cited a study from Business and Economic Research Ltd which found the cost increase to local councils from inflation for this year was 0.9 per cent.

"[If elected] council will be financially prudent and the priorities for what gets funded or not is a decision for the whole of the elected council, and only after there has been consultation and discussion with the community."

Ms Reese said she thought the rates promise was possible, but ratepayers would want to know what they were getting for their money, so more detail was needed.

"You could bring the rates rises down to zero in fact, but the way you might do is that you may not maintain that infrastructure that you've got at the moment.

"If Brian's planning on delivering everything that's in the long-term plan at 1 per cent or less then that might be possible, but I'd be interested in what sort of analysis he's done.

"He may have done the numbers and he may be able to see a way forward to do that."

She agreed with Mr McGurk that the "business as usual" approach to council finances was over.

"Changes do need to be made, but they need to be made with a pretty sound understanding of financial strategy over the long-term."

If elected, her priorities would be to deliver value for money, favouring critical spending, essential spending and discretionary spending in that order.

Mr Miccio said he was still in the process of announcing a decision on whether he would stand.

He said keeping rates as low as possible was a worthy goal, but the promise lacked detail.

"Simply cutting rates doesn't cut it in my book. Anybody can claim anything. If you're not going to give information or justification, why not be more ambitious and say reduce it by 5 per cent or 10 per cent?"

He disagreed with Mr McGurk, saying the current term had seen the lowest rates rises in 25 years.

This had been driven mainly by savings within the council.

It had still delivered core services as well as new projects like the hockey pavilion and being a host city for the Rugby World Cup.

The Nelson Mail