Whangārei District Council cuts staff costs

1:42 pm on 1 May 2020

Whangārei District Council (WDC) is slashing $2 million from its staff running costs.

New Zealand currency held fanned out in someones hand

Photo: 123rf.com

The move is to reduce the size of a previously flagged 5.2 percent rates rise in the face of a Covid-19 recession.

"Based on the staff numbers we have now, there will be fewer employees in 12 months," council chief executive Rob Forlong said.

"We now have a sinking lid policy, with staff who leave not being replaced.

"Whilst I can't predict the future and how bad things are going to become, from what I know now I am not expecting to have redundancies in the short to medium term."

Staff running cost cuts covered several areas as well as the newly-introduced sinking lid policy, he said.

"In the short to medium term recruitment has been frozen. Vacancies aren't being filled."

Some staff will be redeployed and training will also be cut.

"That approach will become more pronounced," Forlong said.

The council currently has 317 full-time equivalent staff.

The council is also slashing $3.7m from other areas as part of redoing its 2020/2021 budgets. This includes cutting $2.5m from its consultants and contractors budget, through to $426 in cuts in publication subscriptions.

"Six to eight weeks ago, everything was looking rosy, now it's completely flipped on its head," he said.

The $5.7m cost-cutting comes as the council is expected to more than halve its 2020/2021 rates take to 2.2 percent, from an originally-scheduled 5.2 percent lift.

WDC councillors are set to meet on Thursday to decide on the rates reduction.

"We are facing an extraordinarily challenging balancing act at this time of major Covid-19 pandemic impact," Forlong said.

"We're building the plane while we're flying it, the whole of New Zealand is in that same boat.

"The goalposts move every day and sometimes every minute."

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