Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown intends to propose changes to the draft annual budget 2023/24 when he tables the final budget proposal at the Governing Body in early June.
The proposal, which will be discussed and considered by the Governing Body over the next few weeks, will include significant softening of the proposed funding cuts to regional services that Aucklanders value.
Programmes that will receive funding in the proposed 2023/24 budget include Citizens Advice Bureau, homelessness initiatives, the Southern Initiative, regional grants, and funding for regional events, arts, and culture.
“I have listened carefully to public feedback and the views of elected members. There is just about a consensus that Auckland Council should not proceed with all the cuts to social and cultural spending that council staff proposed to me in December,” Mayor Brown said.
“A number of councillors have been effective and constructive advocates for these services, and I wish to particularly thank them for that input.
“While a substantial reduction in operating expenditure across the Group remains crucial to balancing the budget, which will include some cuts to regional services, I agree that we should not proceed with the cuts that come at the expense of services that are highly valued by local communities,” Mayor Brown said.
Mayor Brown also indicated plans to develop more sustainable, fair, and secure funding arrangements for regional services and organisations in the future.
Some of the proposed reductions will come with conditions, such as a seeking path to independent or more balanced funding. This will avoid a “hard stop” but enable the council to focus spending on priority areas.
The Mayor also continues to work constructively with the Government on achieving greater alignment in the provision of social services, and on modernising the legislation relating to regional arts and culture funding.
This work focuses on being more effective in delivering services, working together on joint priorities, clarity of roles, and removing duplication. The mayor will have more to say on this in the coming weeks.
The final decision on funding for regional services needs to be part of a balanced, sustainable budget that includes a mix of levers.
Deputy Mayor Desley Simpson supports the Mayor’s position that the proposed funding cuts should be moderated in his final proposal.
"The Mayor and I are both keen supporters of arts and culture and have listened to Aucklanders views on how we can reduce the impact of cuts on the sector. While softening the cuts is important in the short-term, the long-term work we are doing to secure a sustainable, fair funding position is just as important.
“That includes our continued advocacy to central government about provision of social and related services, such as the citizens advice bureaus who contribute a valued service to many Aucklanders,” Deputy Mayor Simpson said.
While the Mayor supports reducing the cuts in the proposal, he reiterates that the Council’s ability to do this depends on a majority of the Governing Body supporting a balanced budget which includes a range of levers, including rates and assets.
“I am working to avoid double-digit rate increases in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, but I need the support of councillors and the public to achieve that,” Mayor Brown said.
Further announcements on the budget proposal can be expected in the coming weeks as discussions continue.