29 Mar 2009

Cap on state jobs 'absurd' - Labour

6:09 am on 29 March 2009

b] The Labour Party says the Government's cap on the core bureaucracy is absurd and meaningless.

The Government has set a cap on the core public service of 39,000 jobs, and says that number will not rise over the next three years.

Labour's state services spokesperson, Grant Robertson, says cuts already announced in the public service make a mockery of the cap.

He says the figure is meaningless because the Government is making arbitrary distinctions between front-line and back-office staff. Mr Robertson says Cabinet papers show the Government's advisers cannot define the difference between the two.

He says the cap provides a maximum number, not a minimum number of jobs because the National Party wants to gut the state sector.

On Thursday, the Government said the cap would be set at 38,859 jobs. State Services Minister Tony Ryall says the cap applies to all public service departments, as well as the five largest Crown entities.

However, Mr Ryall says it excludes departments the Government expects to grow, such as Work and Income, Child, Youth and Family, and those providing public safety such as Police, the Department of Corrections and the Defence Force.

Capping the core bureaucracy was a pre-election pledge by the National Party, which says the former Labour government allowed the state sector to grow by 50%.

Mr Ryall says it is not a slash-and-burn exercise. He says as department chief executives respond to the Government's desire to improve front-line services by restructuring, the number of employees in some departments will reduce, while others will increase.