Part 1: Introduction

Matters arising from the 2015-25 local authority long-term plans.

This report sets out the main findings and observations from our audits of local authorities' 2015-25 long-term plans (LTPs). It follows on from our report Consulting the community about local authorities' 10-year plans, which included our observations from our audits of local authorities' consultation documents.

The 2015-25 LTPs are the fourth set that we have audited since 2006. Although the preparation and audit of LTPs is not new, the content required in each LTP has evolved with successive changes to the governing legislation.

In August 2014, amendments to the Local Government Act 2002 (the Act) introduced changes that included the requirement for local authorities to prepare:

  • concise consultation documents, which replaced the draft LTPs and their summaries as the means to consult communities on the main options and proposals to be included in the LTPs; and
  • infrastructure strategies, setting out their strategic intentions for maintaining, renewing, and replacing infrastructure assets in the next 30 years.

Our audit mandate also changed with the 2014 amendments. Previously, it included considering whether local authorities had complied with legislative requirements in preparing their documents. Now, for both the consultation document and LTP, the auditor is required to report on whether the documents are fit for purpose. This requires more judgement. As previously, the auditor is required to also report on whether the documents are based on good quality underlying information and assumptions.

Some important and significant trends emerge when the 78 LTPs are considered together. This report discusses the trends that we saw. The report also includes our comments on some specific matters of particular importance in this fourth round of LTPs:

  • financial trends and affordability (Part 2);
  • the effect of demographic changes, including economic development (Part 3);
  • infrastructure strategies (Part 4);
  • mandatory performance measures for activities and new options arising during the consultation process (Part 5); and
  • the audit reports we issued (Part 6).

We recognise that these matters, particularly anticipated demographic changes and infrastructure spending intentions, are closely interrelated. All these matters will affect affordability in the 10 years to 2025 and beyond. They present challenges for local authorities as they seek to address the effects of demographic change while continuing to provide affordable, sustainable local services.