30 Mar 2011

English urged to come clean about job cuts

7:22 am on 30 March 2011

The Public Service Association (PSA) says the Government needs to come clean about its plans for reforming the public sector.

Finance Minister Bill English told the Institute of Public Administration in Wellington on Tuesday that the current restraint on public spending is permanent, and not some temporary aberration.

He said there will be more consolidation of agencies and functions over the next two or three years, with fewer positions in core government administration.

PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott says 2000 jobs have already gone in the public service, and there is clearly going to be more restructuring and job cuts.

She says the Government needs to come clean and tell New Zealanders that what it actually wants to do is cut services.

Ms Pilott says job cuts cannot go on indefinitely without there being an impact on services to the public.

Too much duplication - minister

Mr English told his audience that the longer National has been in office, the clearer it has become that the cost of running government is too high.

Even when the Government gets its books back into shape, he said, it will want to use any surplus money to repay debt and make contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund - so no extra money will be available for public spending.

Mr English said he has no master plan but with 38 departments and more than 150 Crown entities there is too much duplication in the public service.

After the speech, he would not say how many jobs he thinks will go, but said: "We know that most government departments haven't had new money in the last couple of years.

"They're not going to get it in the next couple of years. One of the ways they can reduce their budgets is to improve their services and reduce, particularly, their back-office staff."

The minister also confirmed that the Government has discussed trimming Working for Families at the top-end for higher-income earners - calling it "nice to have" spending.

He wouldn't give details before the Budget, but described the changes as moderate.