I’ll never forget the time I was bailed up next to a fellow university student; he was grinning like a shot possum as he told me about his new-found wealth. He had figured out that he could increase the size of his student loan by claiming expenses for books he never intended to buy. “Don’t you have to pay that back?” I asked. “Who cares, I’m off to the pub,” he said.

He may have come to regret the size of his loan when he realised it’s harder to earn money than it is to drink it. However, unlike an individual or a business, councils are quite different; we can choose to increase our income any time by increasing rates. Why is that significant? Because on current forecasts we’ll reach our borrowing limit in 2019. Spending must change or rates must go up.

Last week I showed you a way council could keep a lid on debt by reprioritising growth expenditure from 10 years ‘ahead of time’ to ‘just in time’ while keeping some nice-to-haves. However, given recent decisions to increase the height of the new Harrington St carpark from nine to 11 storeys at an extra cost of $4.5m (despite both evidence and advice to the contrary) and the on-again, off-again, on-again decision to spend an additional $1.5m on what is now a $4m i-Site I do wonder if there is enough appetite by colleagues to do some trade-offs or appeal for more of your money instead. Watch this space over the next six months.

Straight from city council
A personal view,
by Councillor Steve Morris