Request for amount budgeted for staff remuneration
Releasing staff remuneration budget would undermine the Council’s bargaining position and prejudice ability to negotiate effectively with staff and representatives—s 7(2)(i) applies
A ratepayer asked Palmerston North City Council for the amount budgeted for staff remuneration. The Council refused the request under section 7(2)(i) and the requester complained to the Ombudsman.
The Council confirmed that negotiations over staff remuneration would occur the next year, and that it had a budget assumption that would inform that negotiation.
The Ombudsman accepted that releasing this information would undermine the Council’s bargaining position and prejudice its ability to negotiate effectively with staff and their representatives in the upcoming remuneration discussions. The Council must be able to enter into and negotiate satisfactorily such agreements in order to ensure the prudent use of ratepayers’ funds.
The public interest in accountability could be met by disclosure of the amount spent, rather than the amount budgeted. While the requester sought the information to participate in public consultation on the annual budget, the public interest in participation was met by the opportunity to submit on what had been publicly released by the Council in its consultation documents. The public interest in submitting on the specific proposed changes to remuneration did not outweigh the need to withhold the information in this case.
This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.