Politics

Time we hacked the WCC Portfolios; reduce, simplify, radicalise, and provide a mechanism for holding our Councillors and Mayor Accountable

New Councillors will be shortly assigned portfolios. I understand that the model itself may be changed, it certainly needs a refresh because right now it’s barely manageable.

I hear from multiple sources that certain Councillors are already having temper tantrums over this process. In something akin to throwing of toys around LGWM, and that infamous letter, I understand that there is some brute force negotiation going on.

That’s a shame. Because frankly, if that is true, and there is no reason to doubt that, then we already have Councillors putting their interests ahead of the city and a clear sign that this Council is off to a rocky start.

Not everyone is going to get the portfolios they want, so they need to suck that up, realise they are working for us, the residents, and get on with it like a bunch of grownups.

Right, if I were King of the World, then this is how I’d set up and allocate the portfolios — starting with collapsing them into something that is far more manageable rather than the overlapping and often pointless portfolios of the last Council.

This basic model I’ve dreamed up at 3am reduces the entire portfolio and responsibility count by thirteen from the original twenty-five, to a more manageable fourteen, which matches the total number of Councillors. You’ll need to click on the graphic to get a bigger version, as it is going to be difficult to read otherwise.

The upside is that by reducing the portfolios down, more attention can be given to each and (I didn’t plan it this way), there is the same number of portfolios (including Deputy Mayor) as Councillors. This means we can hold each Councillor accountable in a far easier way.

Here’s the rationale, noting that obviously, the portfolios can’t stand alone and do have to act with, service, and inform each other.

Arts and Culture

Arts and Culture is a critical portfolio for Wellington that forms not only our own identity; however it’s often the lens through which the rest of the world views us, and as such, it’s something that we need to invest in continuously.

This would subsume the Events portfolio we currently have, as the majority of that will fall neatly into the Arts and Culture category.

Children & Young People

No change here with the hope that we see more attention in this portfolio this triennium than the last. It’s a crucial part of the city’s makeup, and we have traditionally let it languish.

City Resilience

Infrastructure & Sustainability becomes City Resilience, which better encompasses what that portfolio is trying to achieve, raises its profile and links fundamental (perceived as boring) services to resilience. City Resilience would have strong links to other portfolios, such as Transport.

City Wide Projects

The model adopted by the Central City Projects can be extended across the entire city. It works. It is also clear that large-scale projects attempted by the Council need far more scrutiny and helps with frequent cost blowouts, time blowouts, and failures to even get started. Given this area sees a vast swathe of ratepayer’s cash spent each year, it deserves better.

Climate Change

Given that the Council declared a Climate Change Emergency, and this has remained a hot topic, and necessarily so, then it needs to retain its portfolio. And that portfolio needs some actual teeth, rather than being relegated to some confused corner where Council can point at it languishing whenever someone asks what they are doing about rising sea-levels. It needs to focus on pollution reduction and adaptation fast.

Community Development

This has been a confusing area over the last triennium because it’s been split into so many different spaces. Community is made up of a lot of different components. This old portfolio would take on the following portfolios under its wing; City Safety, Community Resilience, Recreation, and Sport. All of which are inherently community-based.

Deputy Mayor

Remains the same and is included because it is effectively an important portfolio by nature and links to the Mayor and all other portfolios. The Wellington Ambassador could be rolled into this responsibility. It is also a role that is full-time, and as such, stands alone.

Economic Development

This portfolio remains the same, however, incorporates the existing Small Business portfolio, which frankly, could do with a healthy shot in the arm. Small business makes up a large proportion of the city’s economy and has been very poorly served to date, particularly in the area of the trades.

Maori Partnerships

Retains its current status and purpose in the new model.

Sector Partnerships

This new portfolio would subsume Education Partnerships and boost itself to take on other partnerships and sector relationships. The tourism industry, film & media sector, technology & high-tech businesses, are all important to Wellington and need to be given more attention. This would very much be a development portfolio and one where the Council asked industry what they needed to grow. It connects with multiple portfolios, not just the Economic one.

Smart City

Smart City would subsume the City Scientist and the Technology & Innovation portfolio, both of which are critical and both of which have been very poorly served. This portfolio would study and implement smart city strategies in line with the rest of the world’s best (and similar cities) to support all portfolios. This area has the possibility of significantly increasing Wellington across all areas.

Social Development

Effectively remaining the same and subsuming the following portfolios; Living Wage and                 Social Housing. This is something the Council traditionally does well at and should be preserved and strengthened. Wellbeing and other social hot points could be added as well.

Transport

Until we start treating transport as an eco-system comprising many parts, we are going to continue to fail. This portfolio would subsume Public Transport along with Walking & Cycling and pick up any future LGWM responsibilities.

Trust, Transparency, and Engagement

Finally, this portfolio would replace Community Engagement and Governance. The Council has a serious trust issue with its residents that must be resolved for the city to move forward. Because engagement is such a mess, groups rise in its place to halt progress because of a lack of understanding.  Radical thinking is required to make a change in this area, which has been a chain around the city’s ankle for far too long.

Summary

What do I know! This could be a terrible model. So, tell me what you think. Also, I’ve been racking my brains with the new Councillors and who you could assign to each portfolio. It’s not easy. Even mapping new Councillors to the current portfolio set is a nightmare, and that does not bode well for the next three years.

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