Spin cycle shrinks rates as well as clothes

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For most people the experience of putting something through the spin cycle is to have your clothes shrink in the dryer. But for Wellington City Council, an attempt to spin the merits of reducing a potential 7.1% rates rise down to 3.9% has ended up with an announcement that they're reducing rates down to 3.9%, which would be a 96.1% cut!

I can see how this has happened. It's hardly new for politicians to try and be too clever by half about announcements, especially when they know it's news that isn't going to be universally popular.

In this case, the words "rise" or "increase" appear to have been omitted from the article. To illustrate the importance of those two words, 1News' story about the announcement has interpreted the press release as meaning Wellington City Council will be reducing rates by 3.9%.

Rate rises are seldom popular, but ultimately they are necessary. As much as local authorities try and cut as much fat from their budgets as possible, the reality is that most councils have a very limited funding base on which to raise revenue. Wellington City Council is in a better position than most via having some good revenue generating assets to support things rather than just rate payers, but they're also faced with significant costs relating to natural disaster preparedness.

The real moral of the story here is that it sometimes pays to just call a spade a spade and not get too tricky about the message you're trying to tell. Politicians are always going to want to emphasise the reasoning behind or positive aspects of often controversial decisions they've had to make, but the risk is that eventually you're going to say something completely different than what you were intending.