The biggest shift in how Auckland Council operates will come through re-elected mayor Phil Goff’s proposal on Friday night to tighten the reins on its commercial entities, the council-controlled organisations (CCOs).
He’s proposed “liaison councillors” to join CCO boards, and wants a comprehensive review of how the CCOs are operating.
The second of these is important & long overdue, because the relationships between the council governing body & its commercial operations have been inadequate in promoting efficiency with a council perspective.
When ACT MP Rodney Hide was Local Government Minister in 2010, he introduced a system which separated control of the commercial enterprises from the new supercity council’s governing body by giving each one its own board.
2 councillors were nominated to the Auckland Transport board, each for a recommended maximum of 2 terms – until Mr Goff was elected mayor in 2016. He didn’t reappoint councillors Christine Fletcher & Mike Lee, and didn’t replace them.
Communication from the nominated councillors wasn’t up to scratch, mainly because there was no mechanism for them to provide meaningful feedback, explanations or recommendations.
Their exit meant none of the CCO boards had an elected member attending board meetings, and left the council governing body relying on CCO presentations to learn about their activities.
Where there were differences, formal presentations at public meetings weren’t going to be the way to smooth those differences or improve understanding.
In his speech on Friday night at the inauguration of the new governing body, Mr Goff proposed appointing to each CCO “a senior councillor to act as a liaison councillor participating in board meetings & workshops. They will have speaking but not voting rights, and they will act to ensure that boards are aware of council priorities and that the council is well briefed on what the boards are planning to do”.
The question, in this new mechanism, is how the “liaison councillors” will report back. A report without comprehensive action plans is likely to be as futile as past systems.
More importantly, Mr Goff said he’d soon appoint – after consultation with councillors – an independent review panel to comprehensively review how the CCOs are operating: “Terms of reference will include:
- whether the CCO functions, in part or in whole, would be better carried out in-house or at arm’s length
- whether the process of appointing directors and the skill criteria used to appoint those directors is best practice
- whether the current structure allows the council to effectively exercise strategic control over the CCOs, and
- whether the culture of the CCOs, and interaction with the public are fit for purpose.”
Change could be a long & slow process, because the present CCO structure was created in a legislated change to introduce the super-city.
Mr Goff also proposed a new committee focused on environment & climate change, which would have a strong bearing on congestion, shifting more commuting to public transport, and improving the environmental quality of public transport & of the council’s own vehicle fleet.
11 November 2016: A messy start to forward-aiming governance at Auckland Council
8 November 2016: Fletcher suggests Goff take her Auckland Transport board seat
8 November 2016: Lee takes potshots at Goff, ‘independent’ directors, ‘systemic inefficiencies’
Attribution: Goff address.