Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘cuts’

Consultants and contractors

Posted by on April 11th, 2012

Keith Ng has been digging around the issue of government use of consultants. He’s unearthed some stats that show the use of consultants within the public service has increased under National, despite their promise to bring greater efficiency to public services.

This was inevitably going to be one of the consequences of National’s arbitrary ‘cap’ on the number of people employed by the public service. If government departments aren’t allowed to employ new staff, but still have to do the same amount of work, or in some cases even more, what will they do? They’ll contract the labour in, and it looks like that’s what’s happening.

As Danya Levy’s story on Stuff reminds us, last month the Defence force had to admit that it had rehired two Navy staff just weeks after making them redundant after it was unable to fill their roles. The more arbitrary cuts National inflicts, the more of this we’re going to see.

I’ve blogged before that I support a greater focus on efficiency and outcomes within the public service, but the National government are doing things back to front. They’re too focused on what they can cut and what they can sell, rather than reviewing what they actually want the public service to deliver. That’s where there attention should be focused.

CYF frontline cuts widen

Posted by on July 27th, 2011
Dr David Clark is the Labour candidate for Dunedin North
 I have received further detail of significant cuts to Child, Youth and Family services across Otago and Southland.

The information corroborates my original sources and confirms that cuts are occurring to child care and protection services in more South Island communities than previously thought.

New sources tell me that in Dunedin one frontline supervisor position has been halved and two social worker positions have been cut, plus one family group conference co-ordinator, one administrator and one social work resource assistant position.

That is a total of five and half positions in Dunedin alone delivering or supporting frontline services in our region.

In Otago, two social worker positions and one supervisor position have been cut affecting services in Oamaru, Alexandra, Gore and Balclutha. In Invercargill, at least two social workers and one supervisor position have been cut.

These are reductions in essential services. Services that provide the opportunity for a young person to turn their life around, for a family in distress to get the support they need, for a child in harm’s way to get the care and protection they deserve.

These cuts clearly indicate that frontline social work in Otago and Southland is being hollowed out while National repeatedly claims to be improving public services and moving resources to the frontline.

Is the Minister for Social Development aware that, contrary to the Government’s stated commitment to putting more workers on the frontline, the reverse is happening, that frontline staff are being cut at Child, Youth and Family?

Is the Minister aware that Child, Youth and Family’s head office is claiming: ‘There are no staffing cuts to the organisation. No cuts are being made. No staff member is losing their job’*?

In light of the new detail on reductions in Otago and Southland services, I have lodged a further Official Information Request to get past the smokescreen from head office to the truth of the situation – that deep cuts are being made to already stretched services in the South.

I would be the first to congratulate the Minister if the staffing cuts reflected a significant reduction in the number of children and families needing protection and support. Regrettably, that would be a naive assumption.

Child, Youth and Family is that vital line between hope and despair, between giving a child refuge from neglect and abuse and turning our back on the plight of the defenceless. 

 * Source: CYF manager of public affairs Bernadine MacKenzie, quoted in Otago Daily Times on 21 July 2011.

Cuts make lie of National’s promise not to cut front line services.

Posted by on July 20th, 2011

Apologies to David Clark, labour’s candidate for Dunedin North. I accidently posted this under my name not his. Clare

Cuts of up to 30 front line staff at Child, Youth and Family make a lie of National’s promise not to cut front line services.

Our community, our children deserve better. We cannot stand by and let these cuts occur.

In April, Bill English said National was ‘committed to moving resources from the back office to the frontline so we can deliver improved public services to taxpayers with little or no new money over the next few years’. *


  • How is reducing the number of frontline social workers in Dunedin “moving resources to the frontline”?
  • How is making highly trained social workers redundant who support and protect our most vulnerable children going to “deliver improved public services to taxpayers”?

The Government needs to honour its promise to retain front line services. All New Zealanders should demand that the Government reverse this appalling decision.

* [Source: Minister of Finance press release, “Room for savings in state sector back office” dated 13 April 2011]

Another media tragedy

Posted by on April 6th, 2011

Speculation is mounting re job cuts at NZPA. I don’t want to comment any further than that as these are good people, who produce high quality news reporting and they are feeling rightfully uncertain and fearful right now.

It’s worth reflecting on what further  impact cuts to NZPA will have our the diveristy of our media and the ability of smaller regional papers and media outlets that rely on its quality services to inform NZers.

The media is changing. But access to quality media coverage to inform all ctiziens provided by experienced journalists shouldn’t be the casualty.

There are severe structural issues in our media industry. New Zealand citizens are the ones who suffer in terms of diminished quality news service.

Karl Du Fresne wrote this piece last year:

For 125 years, until January 1, 2006, newspapers throughout the country pooled and exchanged news under a co-operative arrangement operated by the New Zealand Press Association.

Member newspapers from Whangarei to Invercargill supplied news from their regions to NZPA and those news stories deemed newsworthy enough to circulate nationally would then be distributed to all other member papers.

NZPA was collectively owned by the member newspapers, and each paper paid an annual subscription based on its circulation figures.

It was a system that enabled a reader in Palmerston North to read about a murder trial in Timaru, a fatal accident in Tolaga Bay, or a rowdy debate in Parliament….

Du Fresne went on to say:

Everything changed, however, when the two dominant newspaper groups were acquired by new owners – Wellington-based INL by the Australian Fairfax group, and Auckland-based Wilson and Horton (publishers of the New Zealand Herald) by APN, an Australian company controlled by Irish magnate Sir Tony O’Reilly.

Bitter rivals on their home turf, the Australians found themselves sitting around the same boardroom table at NZPA, which they now controlled. The idea of sharing news was alien, and it wasn’t long before competitive tension threatened to tear NZPA apart…

NZPA’s distribution of news from the regions has dwindled to a trickle compared with the agency’s heyday, when in a typical year NZPA would dispatch as many as 40,000 news items. Provincial papers have felt this decline most acutely because they relied more heavily on NZPA than larger metropolitan papers with big reporting staffs of their own.

What this all boils down to is that we know a lot less about ourselves.

Read the whole article here

Hat tip Patrick Gower

Update: The 3News website has reported that 42 jobs will go from NZPA. After 131 years,  NZPA will be wound up. What a tragedy. I’m waiting for the official statement.

Filed under: media

What we all should be talking about

Posted by on March 27th, 2011

In the middle of the night our time, somewhere between a quarter and a half a million people marched through London to express their frustration and fear about the impact of huge cuts in the public service.

Most are unglamorous, obscure, unfeted projects, staffed by employees who are not very well paid, but hugely committed to what they do. All of these losses come as a result of the government’s decision to cut spending by £95bn over five years.

Our government has been steadily making cuts since they took office. Most are unglamourous, unfeted projects. Most of the people affected are the already disaffected.

There’s been a steady campaign by the government to build a picture of a public service which is bloated and inefficient.

And to build a picture of the recipients of public services especially beneficiaries, as being rip off merchants. People who didn’t deserve the help anyway. Or should be standing on their own two feet by themselves.

Now we face the prospect of a zero budget. Just think how many more jobs will go, how many more services will be cut, how many more older people will be colder and left to cope on their own. How many more small children in families with low or no incomes will go without a meal, a new pair of shoes, access to a computer at home, while their parents can’t afford the school uniform, the school trips, the essential trips to the doctor, let alone a holiday.

There are no new jobs on the horizon. There are no new industries. There are no really good ideas that people can latch onto and think “this is our future” “I get what this is about”.

There is no hope.

Meanwhile our front pages are full of finger pointing and rotten egg throwing at the latest scapegoat in a political scandal.

My country matters. My electorate matters. I’ve got people who need jobs, who need to know they have a future. I want to give them hope.

McCully takes revenge on aid NGOs

Posted by on September 29th, 2009

Successive governments have enjoyed a good relationship with the country’s overseas aid NGOs: groups like World Vision, Oxfam, Tear Fund, Save the Children, Volunteer Service Abroad.

They have seen the aid groups as part of an NZ Inc approach: raising private donations from the public, building awareness of development issues, and often working together with the government to deliver aid in the field. As in many OECD countries this partnership between government and aid NGOs has been ramped up over the last decade, with NZAID funding the NGOs’ aid programmes to the tune of about $32 m per year.

But the partnership has just taken a hit. Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has personally intervened to cut the funding of the NGOs’ peak body by 40%.  Last year NZAID funded the Council for International Development $900,000 to do a range of work including coordination of disaster relief efforts, capacity building and training of NGO staff, and public awareness work. That is being cut to $650,000 this year and $500,000 the next.

McCully is unlikely to admit it, and on past form he won’t leave a paper trail, but you can bet the cut is a response to the NGO community’s public criticism of his move to restructure NZAID back into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and change its mandate earlier this year. The NGOs were trenchant in their criticism and it wasn’t just the usual campaigners. Rotary, the Salvation Army and agencies like World Vision and Tear Fund who have traditionally been more circumspect in their public advocacy, made it clear to the Government they thought McCully’s plans ill-judged. Most of the NGOs backed a campaign called Don’t Corrupt Aid.

Mr McCully has never been a fan of NGOs. In his speech announcing the restructuring of NZAID he referred to

self-interested individuals from within the aid community [who think] that New Zealand’s aid budget is some kind of sacred cow that should be placed above and beyond the stewardship of the government of the day, and subject only to the attentions of so- called “development experts” who might bring their superior intellects and sensibilities to this task.

And it was hard to know if he was referring to the NGOs or NZAID when he referred to “faceless, unelected, unaccountable, aid bureaucrats”.

It is worrying Mr McCully is willing to cut funding in such a vengeful way. It is bullying from a Government that can’t take public criticism.

It is even more disturbing he is willing to to cut funding that is an investment in building the capacity of NGOs to be accountable and effective partners in the delivery of taxpayer funded overseas aid. But then this is the same Minister who ignored Treasury advice that his restructuring of NZAID would make it less accountable for the spending of taxpayer dollars.