Rates climb (20% for us in the new Supersize Me Auckland City) and the general discontent with Council services grows despite ever more 'consultation'. We seem stuck in a vicious circle of diminishing performance.
Worse yet our Councils (here in New Zealand) are obsessed with deploying 19th Century solutions to 21st Century problems. Our great-great-grandparents would have been quite at home with the public transport options being proposed but these seem quaint to the iPad generation. People don't want these solutions and vote with their feet (and cars and checkbooks)
The new Auckland Council has produced a fabulous full colour glossy book on the future of Auckland. This is apparently a plan.
To my mind there seem to be two principal reasons for council failures. Firstly words like planning and consultation are not used in their normal sense. Council staff adapt the words to mean something different, planning for example is about following some arbitrary set of rules, not developing a series of action plans to meet specific goals. Consultation on the other hand seems to mean asking a set of interest groups a loaded question or two and then ignoring the answers.
The other and more profound reason is that the democratic process fails to deliver what the public want. Few who bother to vote in Council elections have any real understanding of the issues or the capabilities of the various candidates. The result of this is that few councillors have any real competence in governance and Council staff are therefore left to their own devices.
Innovation is suspect and a 'command and control' mentality prevails. Any 'different' thinking is reviled and innovation appears to be stifled.
Far from resolving problems the latest trend of "supersizing" Councils, exemplified by the monster Auckland 'supercity', leaves ratepayers and councillors alike more or less powerless to influence the 'machine' that the Council has become. We have succeeded in taking the local out of local government.
Change is needed but not more of the same.
Planning and consultation need to become real processes where Councils are tasked with finding out what residents want and delivering these outcomes. This will only happen if proper governance processes are put in place. This probably means appointing qualified directors rather than electing well meaning but totally unsuitable candidates