Ministerial staff costs

The SST has a big story on how more warn over $100,000 than in 2008. It has gone from 17 to 53, representing around a third of the staff. This means that in each ministerial office, there are on average two people earning over $100,000.

Now it is newsworthy that ministerial staff are being paid more on average. However the story lacked some context, when you consider the paragraphs that say:

Since coming to Government, National has pledged restraint in the public sector.

However a public sector representative questioned whether the same message was being felt by those doing the bidding of National ministers.

There is a difference between a freeze on how much individuals get paid, and a freeze on total funding for salaries.

What I’m interested in, as a taxpayer, is how much more, if any, we are paying for the running of ministerial office. This would have been useful, even vital, information for the story. And it took around 15 minutes to find out from Treasury documents.

The 2015 budget allocated $25.842 million for ministerial support services. In 2008/09 the cost of ministerial support services was $30.375 million. So in fact spending on ministerial offices has dropped 14.9% in seven years. That is what I call restraint.

Also the cost of VIP transport has stayed constant – in fact down 0.1% from 2008/09.

And ministerial travel has gone up just 3.1% over seven years. Well under inflation.

So actually overall, pretty good spending restraint.

Kris Faafoi, Labour’s state services spokesman said the main responsibility of the staff in the Beehive was simply to make their minister look good.

So Kris is saying the main job of Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins was to make Helen Clark look good? I wonder if they agree with his characterisation.

But as we have gone onto Labour, what happened to ministerial spending between 2000/2001 and 2008/09?

  • Ministerial support services increased 45.3% (down 14.9% under National)
  • VIP transport increased 43.3% (down 0.1% under National)
  • Ministerial travel increased 30.7% (up 3.1% under National)

Andrew McConnell said the approach of the Government was consistent with “the Government’s aim to reduce the number of public sector numbers, and to have fewer but higher skilled people”.

Indeed. National ministerial staff are being paid more, but there are fewer of them – hence the overall cost of running ministerial offices has dropped, not increased.

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