Every party should have Better Public Services targets

I’m delighted to see the Government announce nice Better Public Services targets, as meeting those targets can improve life for so many New Zealanders. We have first hand experience that they can work – the last National-led Government saw immunisations rates for Maori skyrocket to the same level as non-Maori, saw hundreds or thousands of lives saved due to faster service at emergency departments.

The BPS targets are important for numerous reasons:

  • They allow results to be measured and Government to be accountaable
  • They incentivise agencies to work together to achieve them
  • They provide a focus for Ministers and the public
  • They generally are focused on outcomes, not inputs or outputs.

The last one is especially important. The difference is:

  • Inputs: Action (ie spend $20 million to try and improve school attendance rates)
  • Outputs: Result (50 new truancy officers are operating)
  • Outcome: Impact (School attendance is up 10%)

So what are the nine targets:

  1. Shorter stays in emergency departments: 95 per cent of patients to be admitted, discharged, or transferred from an emergency department within six hours.
  2. Shorter wait times for (elective) treatment: 95 per cent of people wait less than four months for elective treatment.
  3. Reduced child and youth offending: 15 per cent reduction in the total number of children and young people with serious and persistent offending behaviour.
  4. Reduced violent crime: 20,000 fewer people who are victims of an assault, robbery, or sexual assault.
  5. Fewer people on the Jobseeker Support Benefit: 50,000 fewer people on Jobseeker Support Benefit. 
  6. Increased student attendance: 80 per cent of students are present for more than 90 per cent of the term. 
  7. More students at expected curriculum levels: 80 per cent of Year 8 students at or above the expected curriculum level for their age in reading, writing and maths by December 2030. 
  8. Fewer people in emergency housing: 75 per cent reduction of households in emergency housing.  
  9. Reduced net greenhouse gas emissions: On track to meet New Zealand’s 2050 net zero climate change targets, with total net emissions of no more than 290 megatonnes from 2022 to 2025 and 305 megatonnes from 2026 to 2030.  

I much prefer a desired outcome of 20,000 fewer crime victims than an output of 25% fewer people in prison.

I think one of the worst things the Ardern/Hipkins Government did was abandon Better Public Services targets. Not only did we see outcomes get so much worse in so many areas, we lost that focus on measuring outcomes, not just how much money we’re spending.

I wouldn’t expect a Labour-led Government to have the same BPS targets as a National-led Government but I would expect them to have their own suite they could be held accountable against.

In an ideal political world all six parliamentary parties would go into an election with their six to ten Better Public Services outcomes so that voters can see what actual impact they want to make, and hold them to account for them. This is very different to just publishing policies.

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