Any reform of public services needs to be based on the principle of improving outcomes for New Zealanders, not implementing arbitrary spending cuts, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“The rhetoric and reality of the National government’s public sector reform are poles apart. While it talks on the one hand about improving the responsiveness of public services, on the other it is implementing arbitrary cuts that focus on ‘input’ rather than ‘outcome’.
“One of National’s first moves in government was to start judging the quality of public services on the basis of the number of staff employed, rather than what they actually achieved. This clear focus on ‘inputs’ clearly cuts against their rhetoric about improving outcomes,” Chris Hipkins said.
“Talk of further wholesale structural reform, such as merging departments and agencies, without first establishing a clear picture of the outcomes those new agencies are supposed to deliver won’t do anything to improve the services New Zealanders receive for their tax dollar.
“National seems hell-bent on privatising and contracting out public services, without first examining whether that’s going to deliver better results in the long-term,” Chris Hipkins said.
“When National last slashed public services to the bone in the 1990s we saw an explosion of consultants and contractors, many of whom had previously been employees. The work they did wasn’t cheaper then and it won’t be cheaper now.
“A focus on better use of technology to deliver more responsive public services is timely, but we shouldn’t over-estimate the potential for that to save money. In fact, IT projects often involve a high level of investment upfront and can also involve quite a lot of risk.
“It’s also vitally important that public services remain accessible to all New Zealanders, not just those who have access to the latest technology or who have the time to sit for hours on end listening to looped elevator music while they wait to speak to a call-centre operator in Mumbai.
“New Zealand taxpayers are entitled to receive highly responsive, accessible, quality public services. Public sector reform needs to focus on how we deliver that, not on how we can arbitrarily cut spending,” Chris Hipkins said.