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John Key – keep your grubby hands of Local Body Councils!

17 July 2012 8 comments

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At a recent Local Government conference in Queenstown, John Key exhorted local body councils to “reign in” spending and “focus on core services”,

The Government proposes axing the community wellbeings from the Local Government Act to make councils focus on ”core responsibilities” and reduce the rates burden on constituents.  “

See:  Councils to pressure Govt over reforms

This theme of “core services” is one that National has been banging-on about since Nick Smith was Local Government Minister. In May of this year, Smith’s replacement as LG Minister, David Carter,  was interviewed on TVNZ’s Q+A.

To suggest that he was sending “mixed messages” was fairly evident. But interviewer Greg Boyd managed to elicit responses from Carter that revealed National’s obessesive mania for local governments to stick to “core services”,

GREG BOYD            Well, hold on.  It sounds like the Government’s wanting a bob each way in this.  They’re wanting to say they keep in touch with what’s happening with the rates, but they’re only to go and do core services at a local level or not.  Which way is it to go?
 
DAVID CARTER            We are not saying that councils can only do core services.  If you take my Christchurch City Council, for example, and it runs the Ellerslie Flower Show in Hagley Park.  You could argue that’s not a core service.  The council has determined that there is value in delivering that show for the people of Christchurch, and, frankly, I meet a lot of people on planes who are travelling from all over New Zealand to come to that.  The council’s decision is to run the Ellerslie Flower Show, and that is a decision for the council to make.  It’s certainly not a decision for central government to make or for myself as minister.

[abridged]

GREG BOYD            So you are limiting local government?  They are going to be in charge of very basic things and numbers and keeping an eye on rates.  You are limiting their scope quite a bit.
 
DAVID     CARTER       We’re certainly going to get local government to be far more focused on what activities it undertakes.   In the past, some councils have stepped too far and undertaken activities, Hamilton city, for example, with the Grand Prix racing.  I think that was an activity that went far beyond where local government should have gone.  It cost local government in that area a lot of money.  We’re not saying you cannot run race cars; we’re saying you need to think very very carefully before undertaking that activity.  And by putting these financial management tests in place, I think councils will think more carefully about some of those longer-term extraneous activities they’re undertaking than they did in the past.

See: Q+A Interview with David Carter 20 May 2012

So the upshot is;

  • Flower Shows – good
  • Grand Prix racing – bad

No doubt local government bodies will await further diktats from the Minister as to what is permissable and what is not.  (And it;’s laughable how National painted Labour as “nanny statist?!”)

Yet, National is not averse to spending tax-payers money on events that are not Central Government  “core services”,

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National had no qualms in spending $39 million of our money on rugby. On top of that, they supported the spending of a further $200 million of public money on the Games.

And National certainly doesn’t seem to mind when SEO’s paid out $54 million in “performance bonuses” to their staff in 2011, with power companies spending the highest.

See:  SEOs pay $54m in staff bonuses

Perhaps John Key and National should look at themselves first as to what they are spending our taxes on.

Especially when recent disclosures to Radio NZ reveal that private consultants have been paid  hundreds of millions of dollars for “advice” of dubious quality and necessity.

This blogger detects not just the sickly-sweet stench of hypocrisy on this issue, but signs of National’s propensity for heavy-handed, ideologically-motivated,  State interference where they are not welcomed, nor justified.

National has it’s own “core services” to focus on – unemployment, stagnating economy, low wages, New Zealanders leaving for Australia, and  deeply unpopular programmes of state asset sales, charter schools, mining, school league tables, alcohol abuse, etc .

National should be focusing in their own backyard – because from where I sit, they have enough of a mess to clean up, without peering over the fence onto other people’s “turf”.

We’re still waiting for those 170,000 new jobs, Dear Leader.

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Another case of “We told you so!”?

17 July 2012 6 comments

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When National campaigned in 2008, John Key made several promises – most of which he has either broken or failed to address.

One of those promises was to “cap the state sector”,

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The above election pledge, signed by Dear Leader John Key, states quite clearly and concisely,

Ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health and education by capping the number of bureacrats…

Checking an on-line dictionary, the definition of capping (in this case) is,

26. to put a maximum limit on (prices, wages, spending, etc.). “

See:  Dictionary.Com

“To put a maximum limit on… ”

Sez nothing about reducing, cutting, chopping, decreasing, or any other  word gleaned from my friendly Thesaurus.

But as with nearly every  other promise from Key, National was quick to break this one as well. Instead of capping, National began cutting,

Job losses to hit military next week

NZ can’t afford AgResearch redundancies

Second TEC restructuring to cut 70 jobs

Public service watchdog faces job cuts

Thirty-five jobs may go at Niwa

NZ Post shutting stores, axing jobs

More than 140 MAF staff to lose jobs

DOC Confirms 96 Jobs To Go

State-Sector Job Cuts ‘Will Make Life Tough

Housing New Zealand staff face further cuts

Ministry plan puts 50 jobs on the line

Air NZ may cut scores of jobs

Public sector will face bucketloads of job cuts

Public Sector Sackings May Lead To Australia Migration

Jobs to go at Justice Ministry

Defence Staff Eye Leaving As Morale Falls

Corrections Department to dump 130 staff

25 redundancies from government’s Plant and Food company

KiwiRail to cut up to 220 jobs

Much like National’s  long list of broken, or unaddressed promises, the ‘Roll Call of Redundancies‘ goes on. And on. And on…

By March of  this year, the Dominion Post reported that over 2,500 state sector workers had been sacked..

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2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

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Andrea Vance, Last updated 09:18 03/03/2012

A squeeze on state service backroom functions has saved just $20 million in two years, Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf has revealed.

The Government has shed more than 2500 jobs in the past three years and ordered chief executives to shave their IT and human resources bills as part of a drastic overhaul of the public service.

But despite ambitious plans to save $1billion over three years, a `benchmarking’ report to be published next week will show 31 agencies and departments have managed to reduce spending by just $20m.

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All for a measely $20 million?!

John Key sells his integrity cheaply. (I’m sure he could get more for it on the open market. Just what are politicians selling themselves for, these days? Ours is barely used.)

John Key promised capping the “bureacracy”. Instead, National sacked 2,500.

See:  2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

This year,  National is planning even more redundancies, in its obsession with it’s failed neo-liberal ideology of  “small government” and privatisation of services.

See:  2400 more public sector jobs could go

In the meantime,  cuts to the state sector are rapidly becoming a cautionary tale – one that is a repeat of National’s cuts in the late 1990s.

See: Related blogpost – Learning from History

Two years into his new cosy relationship with National, and with all the perks and high salary  in his ministerial role, Peter Dunne begins the process of capping cutting the state sector,

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Dunne defends Greymouth IRD job cuts

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announcement

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NZ Herald, 9:08 AM Friday Dec 17, 2010

Revenue Minister Peter Dunne has defended the timing of yesterday’s announcement that eight jobs are to be cut at the Inland Revenue Department in Greymouth.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said the timing could not be worse, coming before Christmas and quick on the heels of the redundancies of 114 Pike River Mine employees following the explosions which killed 29 men…

…  Mr Dunne said the proposals had been discussed with staff in Greymouth in the wake of the Pike River tragedy, however staff told him they wanted to be given certainty on their jobs “as soon as possible”.

“We didn’t want them to go into Christmas with that uncertainty over their heads,” he told Radio New Zealand.

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How very generous, kind-hearted, and humane of Mr Dunne, that “we didn’t want them to go into Christmas with that uncertainty over their heads.”

Certainly not. Instead he “puts the steel-capped boot” into the West Coast community eight days before Christmas.

Charming.

Only the National Party and it’s sycophantic fellow-travellers and grubby little  ‘groupies’ could be so cold-hearted.

Then it follows with mass sackings like this,

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IRD confirms job cuts

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Newstalk ZB/NZ Herald, 12:38 PM Wednesday Sep 7, 2011

Inland Revenue has confirmed it’s cutting 156 jobs from its regional offices.  The affected branches are Rotorua, New Plymouth, Napier, Nelson and Invercargill.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com

Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Tremain said the original proposal was for 191 job losses, but after consultation with staff the number has been reduced to 156.

She said IRD will keep its offices, but where and how it does some work would change.

The process is expected to take 18 months, and will start early next year.

Source

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In the above story, PSA National Secretary, Richard Wagstaff warns us,

Staff say they are already struggling to meet customer demand and the job losses will mean fewer people on the phones, fewer people talking to customers face-to-face and less processing work being done.”

Then a few more, like this,

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IRD cuts 51 provincial jobs

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TV3, Thu, 31 May 2012 7:39p.m.

The IRD has cut jobs (file)

The Inland Revenue Department (IRD) has made 51 staff in regional offices redundant.

The 16 job losses at Invercargill, seven at Nelson, 12 at Rotorua, nine from Napier and seven at New Plymouth are part of the government’s public sector budget cuts, the Public Service Association says…

… An IRD spokesman said on Thursday the cuts would help it deliver a more flexible and sustainable approach with work that could be done over the phone taken up by offices in the main centres.

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Then, MP for Ohariu; Revenue Minister;  and careerist-politician, Peter Dunne makes a public statement to reassure the public,

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IRD job cuts won’t impact taxpayers – Dunne

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TV3, Fri, 01 Jun 2012 7:48a.m.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com

The Government says the Inland Revenue Department will maintain frontline services… despite shedding 60 jobs at regional offices.

The Public Service Association (PSA) says staff are already struggling to meet demand and the redundancies will make that task even tougher.

“Job losses will mean fewer people on the phones, fewer people talking to customers face-to-face and less processing work being done,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

But Revenue Minister Peter Dunne maintains the public shouldn’t notice any change.

“Most of the services that are being refocused are services that were better performed in larger areas. We are certainly not closing any offices and I don’t think tax payers will notice any impact.”

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Note Mr Dunne’s comment, ” We are certainly not closing any offices and I don’t think tax payers will notice any impact ” .

Oh, really?

Really?!?!

Remember Mr Wagstaff’s dire warnings above, made in September last year,

Staff say they are already struggling to meet customer demand and the job losses will mean fewer people on the phones, fewer people talking to customers face-to-face and less processing work being done.”

The inevitable consequence to state sector cuts are now coming home to roost,

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More than 70,000 calls to IRD unanswered –

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Fairfax Media,  Stacey Kirk, Last updated 05:00 13/07/2012

Government cuts and poor planning have left more than 70,000 calls to IRD unanswered over its busiest tax return time, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

IRD figures showed about 70,000 calls weren’t answered between June 25 and July 5 – the two weeks leading up to the deadline for filing tax returns.

During that period 164,000 calls were planned for, but more than 202,000 were received. Of those only about 131,000 were actually answered as the department struggled to cope with increased demand.

The PSA said there had also been a significant increase in the number complaints about the phone service.

National secretary Richard Wagstaff said it was frustrating for both the public and staff but was a “clear consequence” of budget cuts and bad decision-making.

“IRD has been undergoing a large restructuring programme which has already seen its workforce slashed by nearly half in several regional sites.  It has been creating what it calls ‘virtual jobs’ in metropolitan centres while reducing jobs and services in the provinces.

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I wonder how many of those 70,000 unanswered calls were National Party voters and supporters of cuts to the State Sector? I live in hope that every single one of those 70,000 were foolish, naive,  people who thought that National was “cutting the fat” from the state sector.

I hope they  reflect on how wrong they were, as they wait for hours and hours waiting to talk to someone in a government department.

Failing that, I guess they can always call Peter Dunne?

An incoming Labour-led government will be charged with having to re-build the State sector – much as Helen Clark did in the early 2000s.

But more than that, jobs have to be protected. We simply cannot allow an ideologically-driven bunch of right wing lunatics to gut the state sector every time New Zealanders get a rush of blood to their heads and elect National into power. Not one  New Zealander would want to live under a system where his/his job was reliant on the whim of a politician – not one.

So why should state sector workers have to endure their lives turned upside down, simply because National is elected to power every six or nine years?

Such a situation is grossly unfair and untenable. We end up losing talented people and the best and brightest will not want to work under such a cloud of uncertainty and insecurity.

A Labour-led government must fix this and do so as a matter of priority.

This blogger suggests putting all state sector workers on a Union-Employer negotiated, sector-wide, contract-style system, with the PSA as an interested Third Party, and with legally-protected  job security for at least five years,  dated from each general election.

Breaking the contract would entail hefty penalty fees by any government contemplating mass-redundancies.

No doubt every right winger in this country would be frothing at the mouth at such a suggestion of an entrenched system of job-protection. Personally, I don’t care. Right wing fanatics don’t care about others losing their jobs – so why should we care about them?

What I do care about is a fair and just system that protects people’s jobs; their livelihoods; families; and their dignity.

That’s what really matters.

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Related blogposts

Jobs, jobs, everywhere – but not a one for me? (Part Toru)

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