Wielding the razor

In June 2024, The Last Mile3 MinutesBy The Accidental TruckerJuly 2, 2024

There has been a lot of media interest in the public service job cuts. While I sympathise with those affected, we should not forget it has happened before – think back to the Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble slash-and-burn of the 1980s. One of the issues I have experienced over the years in the public service is that it is relatively easy to build a business case for more staff, and once these staff are in place, little, if any, review takes place to ensure that the roles are delivering what they were intended to.

Getting extra staff positions is even easier with a sympathetic government. Often the same thing happens with what, on paper, looks like a good initiative. Money is allocated and staff employed. But while the projects may look good, in the real world they fail to deliver on what was intended, and they become little more than a soak-pit for taxpayer money. Eventually this becomes obvious, and the initiative is abandoned. Inevitably, people lose their jobs.

The cannier public servants involved recognise the failure early on, and by the time it becomes obvious, they have moved onto other things. This writer has had personal experience of this.

When you look at some of the numbers published about the potential for jobs that could be lost, some are vacancies that will not now be filled. There also appears to be lot of people putting their hands up for voluntary redundancy, which suggests that there are quite a few dissatisfied people within the public service, and they are more than happy to get a pay-out to leave.

Let us hope that those wielding the razor at the moment apply the same process to their ‘management’ staff. Often, it is this area that develops the cases for more staff as they, too, can benefit from increasing their salary band.

Over the past six years, the number of public servants is reported to have increased by approximately 34%. Surely, then, the obvious thing would be to look at what these people are doing and ask how much they have contributed to the efficiency of the department or agency and how much they have contributed to the economy of New Zealand. If either of these cannot be readily quantified, why are these positions still there?

The honeymoon period for the coalition government is over. The taxpayers are starting to have enough of been told about what is proposed, we are all looking to see some meaningful action, such as lower grocery prices and shovels in the ground. This is what the government will be judged on, not just on promises.