A WEAK-KNEED COUNCIL
The proceedings at the meeting of the City Council on "Wednesday evening were of more than usual importance, and are likely to waken up the ratepayers to the realisation of the consequences ensuing from the policy which has been carried out for so long by those who have practically ruled the affairs (financial and otherwise) of the Corporation. The principle adopted has been that of letting things "slide," and putting off the evil day. Since the last mayoralty of Mr Fish there has been no real attempt .to.OTapple with difficulties well known to eitst, and which have become more pressing as time rolled on. Wo do not like to criticise harshly the official conduct of citizens who, without feo or reward, and possibly in some instances at considerable personal sacrifice,. have given their j services as members' of the Council | for long periods ; but, -as public men, [they must be judged -by the fruits of their administration, and the gathering can hardly be considered satisfactory. The Council, dominated by those members who without offence may be described as the old stagers, have got into a way of working in a groove, and have been conservative in the very worst interpretation of the word, resenting any proposals, for radical reform in relation to finance, and emulating the ostrich, which, on the approach' of a desert storm, buries its head in the sand. Curiously enough we find city councillors, who have served many terms and never departed from the old traditions, believing, no doubt oonscientiously, that they have thus established a claim on the ratepayers to the honor and emoluments of the mayoralty, and being much incensed at the candidature of an outsider; which fortunately, we think, is permitted by the statute.
In reviewing the Corporation's finances some few weeks ago, in the light of such information as was then available, we ventured to express the opinion that matters were approaching a climax, and that ends could not much longer be made ostensibly to meet by the shifts and contrivances made use of in the past. For thus speaking our mind plainly and forewarning the citizens of .-the inevitable increase of the iates we were, it may be recollected, denounced in strong language by a certain councillor, then a candidate for re-election, whoposes as anauthority,butwhoevidchtly was very imperfectly informed as to the City finances. The only alternative explanation of his statements is that he deliberately deceived the ratepayers—an offence of which we entirely acquit him. He might, however, and we think that under the circumstances he should, have informed himself of existing conditions before addressing the ratepayers and speaking, as he did, so confidently. The facts aud figures upon which the report of tho Finance Committee, submitted and adopted on Wednesday, was based must have been available for the information of members of tho Council months previously to tho annual ward elections. The Committee, it may be noted, do not •traverse the financial position, but simply recommend the levying of an additional general rate of 3d in the £ for the current year, to be payable on January 10, and the imposing of an annually recurring rate of Gd in the £ for the purpose of meeting tho charges for interest on tho consolidated loan of 1878—such rate to be payable in equal instalments half-yearly, on the Ist April and tho Ist October. Tho Mayor, in moving the adoption of the report, explained that the revenue had for a long time proved insufficient to meet the expenditure, and the Council could not any longer depend upon supplementing ordinary revenue by the profits of the gas and water departments. The assertions in our. article of August 27 are thus completely borne out, and we remain of the opinion that the situation should have been boldly faced, and such an additional rate imposed as would establish equilibrium between ordinary revenue and expenditure. The proposal of the Finance Committee, which the Council have adopted, only amounts after all to a half measure, and will neither meet the certain deficit this year nor that which is estimated for 1898-99. Councillor Mouat was direct and to the point when he said that in the face of a deficiency of £12,000 a shilling rate would be required, and deprecated the Council not_ meeting the matter boldly and imposing at once a sufficient rate. As the -Mayor, however, stated, the Council have staved off the increase of rates as long as possible, and are not manifestly inclined to go further in this direction at present than can possibly be avoided. It might open the eyes of the citizens if the Finance Committee would make public the conditions and information upon which they concluded to recommend the additional rates which the Council have just imposed.
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A WEAK-KNEED COUNCIL, Evening Star, Issue 10463, 5 November 1897