16 Nov 2008

Key sticks to plans to cap public servant numbers

9:11 pm on 16 November 2008

Incoming Prime Minister John Key says a report just out on public servants will not alter the National Party's plans to cap the core bureaucracy.

The State Services Commission's annual human resources survey found that the number of public servants rose by 3.6% in the year to June to almost 46,000 people.

The National Party has said it will cap the core number of people working in the public sector at just 36,000, a figure disputed by the state sector union, the Public Service Association.

Mr Key says National used figures from the quarterly employment survey.

National has surprised the union by calling a joint meeting over the future of the public service.

The Public Service Association says it fears for members' jobs, but says Mr Key has given an assurance he is not looking at large-scale cuts.

The union's national secretary, Brenda Pilott, says Mr Key on Thursday indicated he wants to retain the public service at about its present size.

Ms Pilott says the union is waiting to see who will be appointed as state services minister so more discussions can be held.

The State Services Commission says the rise in staff is the smallest percentage increase in the past eight years, and was in the Corrections, Inland Revenue and Labour departments.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie says that is due to new prison facilities, the introduction of KiwiSaver, and extra front-line immigration staff.

Mr Rennie says the average salary of public servants rose by 5.1% in the same period to $59,500 a year.