30 May 2024

Public service cuts: Full scale to be revealed in Budget 2024

9:09 am on 30 May 2024
Finance Minister Nicola Willis delivers the Budget Policy Statement.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis has not ruled out further job losses beyond the government's "baseline savings exercise". Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The full scale of public sector job cuts is set to be revealed when Finance Minister Nicola Willis lifts the lid on the government's budget.

Willis directed ministries and agencies to slash expenditure by either 6.5 percent or 7.5 percent to help reduce annual public service spending by $1.5 billion.

Many got to work quickly - already more than 5000 public sector jobs have gone or are proposed to be cut.

But there is still some way to go, with Willis on Monday unwilling to rule out further job losses beyond the government's "baseline savings exercise".

Of the 37 ministries and departments directed to make savings, 23 have made their plans public - including four which confirmed they were not yet looking at reducing headcount. Numerous other government organisations have also been cutting back, despite not receiving explicit direction from the minister.

That left 14 organisations, some with thousands of staff, still to reveal how they'll find the money - with many saying that information was "budget sensitive". Soon after Thursday, their plans should become clear.

They may not involve job losses, as savings can be made elsewhere. But so far, most have had to slash jobs to meet their targets.

Departments yet to announce savings plans

  • New Zealand Defence Force (employs 15,400 staff) - the NZDF was "working to identify credible savings options for consideration" as part of the budget process, it said.
  • New Zealand Police (employs 15,000 staff) - police had submitted proposals for how it could save money, but no decisions had been made as they depended on the budget, it said.
  • Department of Corrections (employs 9793 staff) - the department had so far removed 107 back-office roles - all of which were vacant. However, it was yet to detail whether it was considering redundancies, or removing more vacant jobs, as part of its cost savings exercise.
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (employs 1184 staff) - The ministry has cut its savings by less than 1 percent but said "there's no impact on staffing at this stage".
  • Ministry of Justice (employs 4758 staff) - at the beginning of May it was "in the early stages of a change process", and intended to consult staff on proposals in June, it said.
  • Statistics New Zealand (employs 1491 staff) - 29 people lost their jobs in December, but a review process that began in February could result in "further changes", it said.
  • Ministry for the Environment (employs 1068 staff) - while 44 people have accepted voluntary redundancies, the ministry would offer redundancy to more people after the budget, it said. There could be hundreds of redundancies at the end of that process, according to the Public Service Association.
  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (employs 256 staff) - DPMC told RNZ any decisions would be made as part of the budget process.
  • Ministry of Defence (employs 195 staff) - as of last month, the Ministry had not undertaken any change processes, and vacancies were being considered on a case-by-case basis, it said. "The majority of our work programme relates to multi-year, large scale military procurement and as projects are completed and new ones approved, our workforce can change as a result."
  • Te Arawhiti - Office for Māori Crown Relations (employs 187 staff) - RNZ has requested information on the office's plans to find savings.
  • Serious Fraud Office (employs 72 staff) - any decisions depended on budget decisions, the office said. But earlier in May it confirmed it was not currently consulting on any proposals which would result in loss of jobs.
  • Ministry for Women (employs 42 staff) - the ministry was working with staff to "identify areas where we can make additional savings" - and decisions would be finalised in the budget, it said.
  • Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives (employs 100 staff) and Parliamentary Service (employs about 700 staff) - a spokesperson could not comment on its plans, because the "budget process is ongoing and confidential".
  • Executive Board for the Elimination of Family Violence and Sexual Violence - RNZ has requested information on the board's plans to find savings.

Departments not planning on cutting jobs

  • Inland Revenue Department (employs 4386 staff) - IRD is finding ways to be more efficient, but at this stage "is not looking to reduce staffing levels beyond business as usual changes", it told RNZ last month.
  • Parliamentary Counsel Office (employs 110 staff) - the office has been reviewing how it will meet its savings targets, but would not release details as it was budget sensitive. But it was not currently proposing to disestablish any roles, it said.
  • Whaikaha Ministry for Disabled People (employs 211 staff) - there were "no plans for redundancies" or a reduction in headcount, a spokesperson said in April. However the ministry had been accused of not following through on promised contracts, and not renewing fixed term contracts.

*Staff numbers are based on Public Service Commission data as at December 2023, and organisations' own websites.

  • How many public sector roles are going, and from where?
  • Ahead of Budget, Nicola Willis refuses to rule out further public sector cuts