6 Dec 2017

Aucklanders' confidence in council rises slightly

12:22 pm on 6 December 2017

Only 20 percent of Aucklanders have confidence and trust in their council, although this is up slightly on a year ago.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff speaks at the meeting. Council voted for a half-way option, a partial closure of the Waitakere Ranges.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

However a new council report said a cut in the council's communications budget posed a significant risk to both.

The result of council's first survey on public perceptions, fuelled criticism of it in the mayoral election campaign last year.

Only 19 percent were then satisfied with its performance, and only 17 percent trusted the council to make the right decision.

"When less than one in five have confidence in Council, that's a fail," said then-mayoral candidate Phil Goff.

"Satisfaction with the Council's performance - across the board - is at rock bottom. The Council is viewed by many as a bloated and unwieldy bureaucracy which ignores the views of Aucklanders while presiding over soaring rates and debt," Mr Goff said in a media release on the survey result.

A new report on organisational risks within the council said both measures had risen to 20 percent, well short of the 2019 goal of 50 percent.

On a new list of organisational risks the council faces, "Trust and Confidence" is one of many rated as High Risk.

How to deal with low trust and confidence appears to be a vexed issue within the council.

Communications and Engagement is the division which in the latest risk report, "owns" the Trust and Confidence performance.

A recent value-for-money assessment of the council group's Communications and Engagement work found plenty of room for cost-cutting and improvement.

It recommended an immediate 5 percent cut to the group's $46.5 million spend, and repeating in each of the following two years. Councillors held back on that one.

"Diminished (communications and engagement) budget available to spend in FY18 will impact delivery across the work programme," the report said.

"This represents a significant risk to Trust and Confidence."

"Media favourability continues on a positive trend - Mayor Phil Goff continues to be the leading spokesperson," it noted.

Mr Goff has just notched up his first year in office as mayor, and 17 months since he deemed the council's trust and confidence performance "a fail."

What drives the public view of the council was not made clear in last year's performance plan.

In a presentation to the council recently, Kevin Ramsay, the general manager of corporate finance and property, noted that among the many contributors was "the political environment".

The Auckland Council may not be alone. A 2016 survey of trust in formal institutions, by Victoria University found similar sentiments.

12 percent of respondents said they had complete or "lots" of trust in Local Government to do the right thing, while 44 percent had little or no trust.

Local Government was followed in the league by Corporations, Government ministers, the TV and print media, MPs and bloggers.

The Auckland Council is expected to release the latest full result of its Trust survey shortly.

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