The growth in Ministerial staff numbers

I blogged on Monday a summary of the Ministerial staff numbers as of May 2008. They were:

  1. 28 Managers
  2. 45 Communicators
  3. 111 Portfolio Advisors
  4. 35 Political Advisors
  5. 56 Administrators
  6. 286 Total Staff

This was to put into context the nonsense from Winston Peters about National having 36 staff (excluding the parliamentary secretary each MP gets) in the leader’s office to support its 48 MPs.

Now I mused out loud that it would be interesting to compare this to 1999, if someone had kept a copy of an old staff list. Well I am pleased to report that several readers are hoarders of such lists – one in fact having every list back to the 1980s! So I now have a copy of the June 1999 Ministerial staff list.

Now what were staff numbers in 1999 and how have they changed in eight years?

  1. Managers – up from 23 to 28 (22% increase)
  2. Communicators (spin doctors) – up from 26 to 45 (a whopping 73% increase)
  3. Portfolio Advisors – up from 62 to 111 (a 79% increase)
  4. Political Advisors – up from 25 to 35 (40% increase)
  5. Administrators – up from 52 to 67 (29% increase)
  6. Total Staff – up from 188 to 286 (52% increase)

So under Labour they have increased total staff in Ministerial Offices by 52%, and spin doctors by 73%.

Oh and in case you were wondering about numbers in the Opposition Leader’s Office, a handy reader also has a July 1999 staff list for Helen Clark’s office. And Helen had 30 staff for 37 MPs. That is 0.81 staff per MP. While that terrible John Key has 36 staff for 38 48 MPs which is 0.75 staff per MP.

One could argue that as the number of Ministers has increased from 23 to 28, one should look at staff per Minister. First of all even if one accepts this premise there has still been a massive increase in staff numbers.

But the number of Ministers is decided by the PM, and can be as small or large as she wants. The number of MPs is basically set at 120, and if one party gains more MPs, then there are less MPs elsewhere and total staffing numbers tends to stay the same. In fact MPs are bulk funded for most costs (excludes travel and phones) so their staff numbers have to be affordable within a limited budget.

Ministers are different. The Government sets the budget for Ministerial Services in their annual budget so can be as high or low as they want. Vote Ministerial Services has increased $12.7 million from 1999/00.

Hopefully John Key’s freeze on total number of civil servants will include Ministerial staff. 286 seems more than enough. Personally I would have a significantly smaller Executive – but that is a topic for another day.

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