The state sector

October 3rd, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Danya Levy at Stuff reports:

Thousands of jobs have been slashed from the during the past three years, yet more voters believe the standard of public services are better under the National-led Government, a new poll shows.

The Government says that it is evidence cutbacks have not impacted on core services, but the Public Service Association believes only the goodwill of civil servants working extra hours has maintained standards and cracks will start to show.

The problem for Labour and the PSA is that of the boy who cried wolf.

I certainly believe there is a limit to how many jobs can be cut from the public service, without affecting performance. But Labour (and the PSA) in 2008 said even National’s policy of freezing numbers would be a disaster and would impact services. And then as the freeze became a reduction with a need to stop the deficit getting even worse, every single reduction was met with cries of doom and destruction.

And the reality is, that the reductions have in fact led to improved services (as the public acknowledge) because it has freed up resources for the front-line. The health sector especially has had some great improvements in performance in the last couple of years – many more operations, quicker times in ED, shorter waiting times for cancer treatment etc.

As I said, there is a limit to how far cost cutting should go. But an ideological opposition to any reduction in costs or staff numbers in the public service doesn’t help with the decision making.

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23 Responses to “The state sector”

  1. Manolo (12,622 comments) says:

    Meanwhile in Greece:
    From the Financial Times: Greek cabinet approves budget cuts

    [Finance Minister] Venizelos has agreed to eliminate 30,000 public sector jobs by December … About 23,000 workers nearing retirement will lose their positions. Another 7,000 will be made redundant after mergers and restructurings … “Given that we’re taking such tough measures … the sixth tranche is assured.” [said Venizelos]
    excerpt with permission

    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2011/10/greece-to-cut-30000-public-sector-jobs.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+CalculatedRisk+%28Calculated+Risk%29

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  2. mpledger (428 comments) says:

    How many of the people who responded had any interaction with the public services in question, both before and after the changes?

    For people who haven’t interacted with a public service, what does their response really mean? It’s most likely feel-good/feel-bad responses based on media and hearsay conversations.

    At a time when the media is going down the drain and the news is filled with rugby, how would those stories get out in to the public domain?

    Surveying while the world cup is on has to be pretty dodgy.

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  3. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    I agree there have been a lot of expensive-looking posters from the PSA around the place about how they all deserve to remain employed, you get a bit over the whining after a while.

    However the stuff article also quotes THIS, which if true is a bit sh!thouse

    A recent survey of the Public Service Association’s 40,000 female members found that half were doing extra hours, with only one in 10 being paid for them.

    I’ve only ever worked in private enterprise, but I don’t work for free, so I can’t really expect the civil servants to do so…

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  4. David Farrar (1,808 comments) says:

    RRM: I have never ever had a job (since school anyway) where I don’t work for free, ie do hours beyond 40 which no one pays me for. And I have worked private and public sector. I believe you are paid a salary to do a job. Sometimes the job will be more than 40 hours a week. If the hours are too great for the salary then I find a new job.

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  5. nasska (9,501 comments) says:

    Now that the subject of productivity in the public sector is finally being addressed maybe the next step is to consider which of the “services” they currently offer could be sacrificed without the taxpayer being inconvenienced.

    Since we are living in straightened times I’m willing to donate my time to help draw up a list.

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  6. dime (8,751 comments) says:

    RRM – really? are you not on a salary?

    it sounds like some people in the public service are working like real people. not paid for every single second. good.

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  7. Pongo (356 comments) says:

    It’s a good start but there are a few ministries that could be totally abolished, there is also huge juicy contracts to service providers and lobby groups that need to be addressed.

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  8. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “Thousands of jobs have been slashed from the state sector during the past three years, yet more voters believe the standard of public services are better under the National-led Government, a new poll shows”

    Labour created thousands of faux “jobs” for the PSA, in part out of obediance to Union demands, and in part to create a false sense that the Government was achieving lower unemployment.

    National has shown that not only were those jobs for Labours friends unecessary, but that you can run the state sector efficiently and deliver good public services without throwing vast sums of money at everything.

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  9. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “It’s a good start but there are a few ministries that could be totally abolished”

    Yes. The Ministry of Feminist Affairs. The Ministry of Maori Affairs. The Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. The Human Wrongs Commission. The Race Relations Office and Consiliator (otherwise known as the “bash whitey office”). The Ministry of Family Interference.

    Thats a start.

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  10. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    We have barely scratched the surface here. If the government deficit does not improve we will have to cut not only the nicet to have employees but deep into essential employees such as nurses, police and army personnel as other countries are having to do. What should nz be exempt with public finances just as bad.

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  11. nasska (9,501 comments) says:

    tvb

    Better we start with the unproductive & unnecessary positions now, then we might be able to afford our police, soldiers & nurses. At the same time we can deal to the most unproductive, parasitical jobsworths of the lot…local body officials.

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  12. La Grand Fromage (145 comments) says:

    Who would have guessed that getting rid of the civil servants who spent their whole time meeting with each other to discuss important issue like whether the office potplants represented the lesbian and gay community (as well as the unique needs of the transgenders) wouldn’t have an impact on the quality of service to the public.

    Still too many of these types conducting pointless wankfests with each other in the coffee establishments of Wellington.

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  13. KiwiGreg (3,129 comments) says:

    LOL RRM that looks like those surveys of school teachers where they all report workiong 100s of hours a week. The reality is there ARE some public servants (those who work directly for Ministers for instance) who work very long hours and others who just punch the clock.

    “I certainly believe there is a limit to how many jobs can be cut from the public service, without affecting performance.”

    DPF – depends on what you are measuring. Almost by definition it’s nothing you’d be prepared to pay for if you weren’t forced to. Personally I’d be totally OK with a wholesale scrapping of a fair amount of it.

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  14. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    dime / others –

    My time is charged out at an (eye-watering) hourly rate so every minute of my day goes on the timesheet. I do eight hours, the client pays for eight hours, and I get paid for eight hours. Some days, strike out “eight” and replace with “nine.” It’s a good system!

    (It’s also what enables me to comment on KB during the day without ripping anyone off or getting in trouble!)

    I would expect no less from my civil servants, but I can’t really expect more either ;-)

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  15. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    Kiwigreg – lol, yes I’m well aware that some govt departments are just ridiculously over-staffed for the amount of work they have to do, the result of generations of “use it or lose it” budgeting…

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  16. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    > the reductions have in fact led to improved services

    Really? Maybe you’d like to provide the evidence for this assertion.

    Out of interest, when the government decided to do away with mine inspectorates, did that decision result in improved mine safety?

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  17. Lee01 (2,171 comments) says:

    “Maybe you’d like to provide the evidence for this assertion.”

    A couple of years ago I had to have an operation that under Labour I would have been waiting six to nine months for. Because of Nationals willingness to work with the private sector I only had to wait three weeks. Thats an improved service to me, as it is to the thousands of others who were left to rot on waiting lists because of Labours ideological stupidity.

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  18. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    The mining industry is of course going to get more mines inspectors, at a cost of $1.5 million per year. David Farrar thinks it’s a disgrace and someone should resign over this wasteful expenditure.

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  19. ross (1,454 comments) says:

    Lee, a couple of years ago National were in government. And given your hatred of Labour, I’d take anything you say with a grain of salt.

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  20. DJP6-25 (1,229 comments) says:

    nasska 12:53 pm. Two words. Google test.

    cheers

    David Prosser

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  21. dion (95 comments) says:

    Working extra hours? Oh, the humanity!

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  22. peterwn (2,933 comments) says:

    PSA advertising is hilarious. They are pushing the line that more ‘Red Tape’ would have cured ‘evils’ such as leaky homes, etc. People who have to deal with the Public Service would cringe at the thought of more ‘Red Tape’.

    The advertising can only be ‘dog whistles’ to their own militant members to show they are ‘doing something’.

    See:
    http://www.keepnzworking.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/redtape3web.jpg

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  23. RRM (8,988 comments) says:

    I thought this one was the funniest… my 7 year old drops similarly barbed comments when she doesn’t get her way:

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:gpeMDwFndaAJ:www.psa.org.nz/Libraries/PSA_Documents/PSA_AUSTRALIA.sflb.ashx+don%27t+worry+experienced+public+service+workers&hl=en&gl=nz&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESios8po147nP3QJ3opLgxlGNMLWZ-cFReer4qRUMmBusYNDUqagMxVCz96QB05bokxS_GwwJugmfFz_AgQ3vjnd8ObbzH7xrGFo9jTfjNyoWgkqPg6DP2T9SVeRflT0Hfd-UD7p&sig=AHIEtbRuAChpi4CkQZG4kSt4H5kauuyRCw

    Boo hoo!

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