This week’s notes come with a warning to the mayor and our councillors. I’m worried about Christchurch City Council. The public are unhappy. The staff are unhappy. Your budget is blowing out. It’s time to have a hard think. About everything.
Rosa Luxemburg once said: “Those who do not move, do not notice their chains”.
Staff are unhappy…
There have been many concerning matters since the election. Starting with staff, these include:
- A low level of satisfaction by staff in their annual staff survey.
- In the past 2 years over 900 staff have left CCC many of them dissatisfied and unhappy.
- Two senior staff have been on “gardening leave” since February. My estimate is that they will have been paid around $170K to sit at home. On top of this the legal expenses of this dispute will be enormous. I wonder when outside “consultants” will be brought in to “advise” on whatever these two are being accused of? Nobody knows what they did wrong. Only the CE who is responsible to elected reps for all staffing matters. If this matter costs less than $300,000 I’d be surprised. That’s rates money being paid for what?
I receive many emails after the Tuesday Club notes are distributed. Here is one:
As a staff member at CCC my heart is breaking at the drastic drop in morale and the unprecedented attrition rate of staff. You know yourself how passionate the people are there. Not anymore. The level of quiet quitting is out of control.
What can be done to turn the place around? I’d prefer it if you kept my details out of it as the repercussions worry me if I’m identified. I love my job; I love the people and I’m so over the senior leadership team.
I’ve seen so many friends move on, to be replaced by inexperienced but lower paid people. The amount of institutional knowledge that left the organization is mind boggling.
It’s horrible. Keep digging please.Yours sincerely
A demoralized staffer.
The Residents of the City are unhappy with CCC
This week the Annual Residents Survey, the results of which have been at the Council for weeks, was finally publicly released. This survey has been undertaken for decades and this and last year’s satisfaction results are the lowest so far. This alongside the staff levels of dissatisfaction must really worry those who sit at the Council table as our reps. When I sat at the Council table, we used the survey to assist the annual financial planning.
Here’s a chart showing the satisfaction levels since 2007
This chart shows that Dawn Baxendale has not changed the satisfaction level of ratepayers, which was hoped would happen when she was brought from the UK. In fact they have plunged to new lows. Last Thursday in https://newsline.ccc.govt.nz/news/story/residents-share-views-on-how-the-councils-performing on the CCC webpage Baxendale wrote “While there’s a lot of room for improvement, we’re cautiously optimistic about this result”. FFS.
These results should be sphincter tightening. When the new CE was appointed the satisfaction results were at 62% and that was dreadful and was the one of the challenges the then council reps hoped to rectify. It’s dropped a further third since then and they are referred to as encouraging people to be “cautiously optomistic”?
These charts were only released this week and I have not had a chance to analyse them in depth so will leave that for future Tuesday Club notes. Councillors could reflect on things like when those surveyed respond to the question “the Council is open and transparent” and 24% support this question; and to “the Council makes wise decisions” and 15% support this question.
Finances are Looking Shaky
Council finances have not improved either. One important measure of effectiveness of CCC is “service delivery”. This is a measure of just what is being achieved for the ratepayers. In the report to the Finance Committee (chaired by Sam Macdonald) this week the Organisational Performance report informed elected reps that service delivery remains at 86%, the same level as 2019.
However, the executive team proposed almost two dozen lower level of service targets in the 2021 Long Term Plan, and councillors accepted these drops. So, despite easier goals, CCC is achieving only the same result. Here’s the report: https://christchurch.infocouncil.biz/Open/2023/05/FPCO_20230531_AGN_8424_AT_WEB.htm
What’s happening to the rate level?
Remember Phil Mauger during the election campaign sounding off about how he will, as Mayor, reduce rates to between 3 and 4.5%. People believed him. He was a businessman after all, and they know how to control costs. Well, the Council went out to the public with a proposed 5.68% increase with a lot of song and dancing. I understand that this number is now higher. I think most ratepayers would understand rate increases as CCC is not cushioned from totally understandable cost increases. It will be interesting to analyse what costs have pushed up the rates increases since public consultation and who is responsible for these increases not being included for public consideration.
The issue for the public to consider was how responsible was it of Phil Mauger to sound like he could deliver a low-rate increase. During the campaign he was supported by Sam Macdonald who now chairs the most powerful committee at CCC. They are now having to front rate increases which will be double the lowest number they were promoting at the election and who knows how high this number will end up.
Elected Reps, led by the Mayor, have publically attacked staff
t’s a bad sign when elected reps attack staff when in the Press the following headline was there for all to see on a Monday morning recently:
Council staff ‘running amok’, Christchurch mayor says
It is demeaning of elected reps to attack staff who cannot defend themselves. Yes, there will be matters to raise and to debate. Sounding off in the Press is not acceptable. In my 15 years at CCC I had many serious differences with staff, but they were conducted at Council meetings. I’m not saying don’t have debates with staff, as elected reps your job is to reflect what you are hearing in your ward, or around the city. Just do it in a sensible and sensitive manner.
However, the key issue for the Councillors who are sounding off about cycleways is to not be distracted by side issues. Instead, you must focus on the latest staff and resident’s surveys. People aren’t happy inside and outside the council. What are you doing about it? Nothing visible so far. Focusing in on a cycleway is just a lazy way of getting a headline and sparking off Newstalk ZB.
Here’s another response I received from a reader:
I found your comments on the recent CCC survey quite good and concise. It’s also telling in light of councillors and the mayor actively bad-mouthing staff in the press (as also pointed out by this article).
Transport staff are simply trying enact changes that align with the council’s emissions reductions goals, which they are woefully behind. In other words, staff are attempting to do their jobs, but the mayor and certain councillors are spending their time stopping every minor transport project towards emission goals. Perhaps Phil Mauger plans to buy everyone hydrogen cars to meet emission targets!
As Aotearoa continues to see rampening up of the bad effects of climate change it’s pretty absurd to accuse staff of being ‘devious’ who are just trying to do their jobs.
After yet another delay of the Christchurch transport plan it’s clear what councillors want: no change.
I read a blog called “The wrong side of history” and although I regularly disagree with the author, at other times I enjoy his view. Here’s one which our elected reps could read and reflect on:
What can be nicer than the idea that, years after we’ve passed, people will still fondly talk about us, warmly laugh about our eccentricities, and perhaps wistfully reflect that we left them an inheritance better than we found it.
Councillors you have the answer in your own hands. The staff, the residents are sending a message. Listen to them. The key issue for our elected reps to focus on starts at the top.
David Williams on National Radio this morning (Monday 29th May reports on CCC https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2018892142/around-the-motu-david-williams-in-christchurch