Council contracts Chamber for $200k a year – Good investment or corporate welfare?

Currently the Hutt City Council contracts the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce at a cost of $200k. Is this a good spend of rate payers money?

While I have no doubt the Chamber plays an important role in our City, I have some concerns about the value we as a Council are gaining when we contract the HVCC at a cost of $200,000 a year.

Of course, a contract outlining what must be delivered for this money exists, however the outcomes reported back are difficult to measure and appear to be a regurgitation of what the Chamber does on a normal day to day basis. The only outcomes that appear to be measurable are events the Chamber has held, business boot camps they run, submissions they have made on different issues, and the provision of information from the business sector to Council.

To put it simply, we seem to get a few workshops and events, occasional submissions, updates on what the business community is saying, and a whole heap of fluffy stuff. By ‘fluffy stuff’ I mean things that sound good, but are not really measurable. It feels like much of our $200,000 just acts as a subsidy for the day to day operation of the Chamber.

Another issue I have with the current arrangement is that no focus whatsoever is given to our suburban areas. While we watch communities like Naenae, Stokes Valley and Wainuiomata lose business after business the Chamber is nowhere to be seen.

One example is the proposed Wainuiomata Shopping Centre redevelopment. News broke around 18 months ago that the owners will spend significant money on an upgrade if they can lock in a certain amount of leases.

For the $200k we give each year, you would think that the Chamber would get hands on to help the Shopping Centre secure the leases (or something else to help) right? Wrong.

When they are being contracted to help grow the City’s economy/business sector as a whole, of course there should be a focus on our CBD and industrial areas, but at the same time they should not be ignoring our suburban centres.

The Chamber isn’t all to blame for the current situation – a contract is a two way street, and we as a Council should be giving more direction and demanding more tangible outcomes.

When I was first elected to Council a colleague gave me some very good advice:

“Treat rate payers money as if it were your own.”

Putting this to the test, there is absolutely no way I would be paying the current amount to the Chamber for what we are getting in return.

I’ve reviewed the last 3 reports Council has received (6 monthly reports) from the Chamber and they are clearly cut and paste jobs with minor details being changed or the odd thing being added or removed.

Would you be happy with that if you were contracting someone for 200k a year?

Given our budget is so tight this year maybe we should consider reducing the $200k or scrapping it all together?

You be the judge: 

March 2016 report – Page 11 

September 2015 Report – Page 67

March 2015 report – Page 46

Interested in your thoughts…

Views are my own and do not reflect the view of the Hutt City Council.

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