Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has used his first economic speech as National Party Leader to call out Auckland Council for what he describes as its “lack of fiscal discipline.”
He also suggests the Council takes a page out of the previous Government’s book when it comes to being good economic managers.
Speaking in Auckland on Monday, Bridges slammed Auckland Council, saying it should be “applying more discipline to its own finances.”
He said if National won the next election, it would reverse the Government’s regional fuel tax.
Speaking to Interest.co.nz, Bridges says if the Council had done a better job at managing its own books, there would be no need for any new taxes.
“Over the last four years, the Council has spent an additional $800 million – $160 million of that is in wages. To me, that is a lack of discipline.”
He would not say which areas the Council need to look at tightening the belt, only that “the general approach that we took in Government, they can take – which is just good management, good discipline and examining spending.”
Although he alludes to inflated wages being an issue, he does not call for any changes in this area.
“I won’t be prescriptive on that because I think it’s an area for the Council.”
Minister of Transport Phil Twyford says Aucklanders need their “transport nightmares” to end now, not in another 30 years while “National hold back growth in Auckland.”
“Simon Bridges would pull the plug on the largest civil engineering project in New Zealand’s history just to score cheap political points in the middle of a by-election,” he says.
Last week, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the regional fuel tax was a pivotal part of the planned $28 billion transport infrastructure investment in Auckland.
Twyford is calling on Bridges to explain how he would pay for the infrastructure needs without cutting the fuel tax.
Bridges says the Crown’s books are good enough to allow for more infrastructure investment without new taxes.
Existing excise taxes, which were growing because of the healthy economy, would also help pay for any additional infrastructure needs, he says.
The main point Bridges makes is that if National wins the election, it would crack down on Auckland Council’s “wrong spending.”
“We are clear we would not give them this free pass to just continue on in the manner they and Twyford seem to want.”