13 Mar 2012

PM says merit in merging ministries

5:44 pm on 13 March 2012

The Prime Minister says there is merit in merging a number of ministries, as he prepares to deliver a speech on Thursday on further plans for public sector savings.

There has been speculation about a merger between the Ministry of Economic Development, Department of Labour and the Tertiary Education Commission.

John Key says there are no plans for wholesale restructuring of the public service, but changes will involve the merger of a number of ministries.

He says government departments are not going to be merged for the sheer sake of it.

"Structural change should be taken carefully and on a considered basis, but we do think there is one area where there's an opportunity for us to put together a number of ministries to deliver better outcomes."

He says the newly formed Ministry for Primary Industries is a blueprint for bringing compatible portfolios together.

The Labour Party says there could be huge costs involved in the merger of a number of ministries.

Deputy leader Grant Robertson says the Government is simply reshuffling sectors because it does not have an overall plan for the economy.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says the restructure has been well-thought through.

Mr Joyce says the Government has an agenda of economic growth that it is working on.

"We've got six areas that we've clearly identified as the key inputs to business, and we are grouping ministers and portfolios around that."

He says the Government is often accused of not doing anything, and then when it does do something it is accused of doing it for all the wrong reasons.

Mr Joyce says the plan also includes a structural change for the industry training organisation sector, reducing it from 33 ITOs to fewer than 10.

[h[ Tertiary union sceptical

The Tertiary Education Union says it is sceptical whether more restructuring by the Government will save money.

President Sandra Grey says it is important to talk to the communities and the staff involved, which know how to get the best out of the government money.

Dr Grey says there are indications the Government wants some of the tertiary institutions to merge their back room functions, such as payroll and student services, but she says it would just create another layer of bureaucracy.

"There's no evidence to say that one single body running all institutions will make them more effective, leaner and meaner."

Mr Key says there will be more changes this term, and further job losses.