In praise of Council Analyst’s Free Speech
Subscribers to the CPR website, particularly within its Blog’s space will now have the opportunity to “tell it like it is”, in other words to freely express their own specialist-professional views.
Within the bounds of accepted norms of polite and respectful dialogue and debate, our Blog will be encouraging and supportive of full and frank expressions of honestly, held professionally credible and unfettered viewpoints.
It would be unnecessary to make such a statement as this, were it not for the fact that it has been my experience that for New Zealand Local Government people, open debate, sometimes of contending views is constrained, often avoided altogether or is stated using a form of coded indirect wording designed to only obliquely deliver the underlying message in “politically accepted” terms.
In “fairness” this reaction acts as a self -defensive mechanism for a sector that typically (and often “unfairly”) receives more public opprobrium than praise.
The CPR site, in its capacity as a Forum for your views, provides the palette with which to display the full picture. Also, to my knowledge, at present there are no other fora out there, that state their freedom of expression on Council policy areas as clearly as does the CPR site.
We have filled an obvious gap in the policy space for Local Government people by freeing up some robust discussion.
An example of the constrained Council policy debate might be as follows: A policy option, designed to reduce Council debt might quite validly include (among many other strategies note) … a variety of differing forms of ownership of Council-owned assets including (“Shock-Horror”) their privatisation.
Or similarly, a fully comprehensive publicly contentious pest prevention programme option … if the policy study of the problems of pest control is to fully cover all policy options, must include the presently contentious assessment of the cost-benefits of GE modified (“Hush your mouth”) pest control methods.
Talk about minefields. But such is the life of a Council analyst and such is the nature of the beast.
Analysts, on a regular basis are given the hugely challenging task of negotiating many and varied differing, often contrary positions. A public health policy analyst assessing differing (say) cost benefits of various drug treatments has it easy by comparison with her Council counterparts.
As policy analysts for Councils, we tread the minefield that lies between politically sensitive viewpoints and the need to complete a full and complete … and even-handed professional study of the issues we have need to confront.
The Principal Act (LGA 2002 and its amendments requires this comprehensiveness too … its “Requirements in relation to decisions” that is the need to include considerations of (all) options …
S.77 (1) A local authority must, in the course of the decision-making process,—
(a) seek to identify all reasonably practicable options for the achievement of the objective of a decision; and
(b) assess the options in terms of their advantages and disadvantages; and
(c) if any of the options identified under paragraph (a) involves a significant decision in relation to land or a body of water, take into account the relationship of Māori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral land, water, sites, waahi tapu, valued flora and fauna, and other taonga.
The section repeats the importance of consideration of all options as part of the process.
If though, individual Councils develop other more circumscribed less inclusive codes of conduct and if employment terms do not specifically preclude an individual analyst from freely expressing their professional views on any subject then “such is life”.
We here at CPR though, will give free rein to “full and frank expressions of honestly held professionally credible viewpoints”. These wide-ranging views will be given not just houseroom but will be positively encouraged within the robust exchange of views fostered by the CPR philosophy.
Any exceptions to this practice … because Council rules preclude certain policy positions, is left to the individual contributor to monitor of course.
But because we all live in a Western Democracy with hard won and prized rights to freedom of expression, it is hoped, akin with rules covering Parliamentary interjections, that any constraint of opinions for our CPR subscribers participating in our Blog (and other dialogue) will be … rare and infrequent.
The sponsors and authors of the CPR site do not subscribe to any one political or ideological stance.
Their views, as will be evidenced by the I’ve been thinking pieces, as well as the nature of the site’s content (financial-economic and governance views principally) will be fostered on the site.
The CPR site though, does have an underlying thread, a message and a viewpoint. The particulars of this “CPR viewpoint” are made plain in the next I’ve Been Thinking contribution that deals with LGA 2002 as amended as laid down for “The Purpose of Local Government”.
S.10 The purpose of local government is—
(a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and
(b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities in the present and for the future.
The CPR site content has a stance on this matter of “Purpose”.and a reading of its prefaces … “Home” pages of the site leaves no doubt as to where we stand. As the site’s authors. In a nutshell this CPR viewpoint-stance can be summed up as this:
We consider that there should be a principal purpose of Local Government, that is a focus on New Zealand Local Government’s cost-effective delivery of essential services and infrastructure as desired by Council ratepayers provided at an affordable cost and achieved within sustainable prudential boundaries”.
Some might say that this is just the typical statement of a recovering auditor/bean-counter and gives emphasis only to the one (of four) “economic well beings”.
Others might observe that this is a more dollar-centric view of the world and is at variance with a perceived equality of the importance of all four well beings … not just the economic one.
Both these statements are persuasive but only with the qualification which leads this piece. The CPR viewpoint is “an expression of an honestly held professionally credible viewpoint”. In this case, a contestable one to be sure but one with a supporting rationale deserving of further study … and no doubt of further debate.
To conclude with an example of the CPR style of “telling it like it is”.
The CPR as stated, focusses upon cost effective service delivery, and is one based upon a position with excellent credentials including sound judgment for both students of Economics and of realpolitik.
An acceptance of the message of the Economic ‘s 101, Lesson 1, that emphasises the vital importance of the application of the most efficient allocation of scarce resources, underpins the CPR viewpoint. The realpolitik of the emphasis on the dollar well being lies in its essential nature ahead of the others.
The economic well-being imperative-objective, is unique among the four well beings. It is the only one of the four, upon which performance of the others depend. Without the luxury of economic surpluses our primitive forebears had no time or energy for anything but putting the next meal on the table-rock slab. Economic drivers continue to this day to retain their natural prominence.
Economic essentials supported life and took precedence over all other nice to have activities … including note primitive women and men drawing on the walls of their caves (their cultural wellbeing).
In a modern context, it is too easy, given pervasive existing productivity surpluses to forget the essential nature of income and surplus earning economic activities above all others … we remain dependent on the dollar stuff.
The CPR ethos unashamedly therefore gives precedence to its economic (and financial and governance) stance leaving other “Purposes” … to others who, (bless em) have different views.