public services

Len Brown’s council shuffling deck chairs to make ends meet

While Len Brown is enthusiastically supporting spending more than $500,000 per annum on troughers in Ateed living overseas…and looking at expanding that, his council is reducing the public services that rates are supposed to cover.

Library hours are being reduced in a bid to save $1.1 million. Perhaps if he recalled our ‘city ambassadors’ he could find a large chunk of those savings?

Most libraries will have reduced opening hours, while some others will be extended, in a bid to save $1.1 million in Auckland Council’s proposed budget.

The core service is not spared in the 10-year budget, which also targets a 7 per cent cutback in park maintenance. The city’s 55 libraries will remain open on Saturdays, but Whangaparaoa, Mahurangi East and Birkenhead or Northcote will be closed on Sundays.

Warkworth, Ranui and Otahuhu will, however, extend their opening hours to include Sundays.

The Botany library has the biggest reduction, losing 12 hours to end up with 56, followed by Waitakere library and research centre, which loses 10 hours.

Even the hours at the central city library are being cut by five, doors opening on weekdays at 10am instead of 9am.

Other cutbacks of an hour or half-hour are minimal and several libraries will be open for longer. Warkworth will gain an extra six hours and Wellsford an extra three.

For libraries open Monday to Saturday, it is planned for a “neighbouring” library to be open on a Sunday to keep a seven-day service within reasonable reach of the community. ?? Read more »

Guest Post – Phil Hayward on Auckland and the RMA reforms

by Phil Hayward

The Auckland Unitary Plan Submission process is underway and we should soon know whether it is a charade with outcomes pre-determined and impervious to evidence. The usual suspects are also claiming once again to be able to ?debunk? the latest Demographia Report on housing affordability, and even the government is embarrassed over the dismal ineffectiveness of its trumpeted ?Housing Accords?.

My previous essays on this forum could usefully be read or re-read now by anyone interested in this subject.

The prevalent mythology is that Auckland already sprawls too much at low density, already has built too many roads (and that is why it is congested), is letting the floodgates re-open too much towards more new sprawl and not enough new intensification (60% of growth to be via intensification is the plan), the ramp-up in building now is major, and intensification will provide for affordability.

In fact, Auckland is around 3 times as dense as Boston, Atlanta, Indianapolis, Nashville and dozens of other US cities; is the second densest city in the Anglo New World after Toronto (pop. 6 million); is one of the densest first world urban areas of only 1 million people; is close to Amsterdam?s density and is denser than Lyon, Marseille, the Ruhr Valley and many urban areas in France and Germany, especially those with around 1 million people or less.

We have never actually had US style low density sprawl; very little of our suburban development was ever even ? acre sections. That always was a ?dream? for most, and now nearly every such section has already had townhouses built on what was the backyard. In the USA, suburbs are common with minimum lot size mandates of 1 acre to 4 acres.??

Michael Bassett and Luke Malpass (NZ Initiative) ?Priced Out: How NZ Lost its Housing Affordability? (2012) show that NZ and Auckland were during the period from the 1960?s to the 1980?s, building as many as twice as many new dwellings as now. Most of that was greenfields suburban development, albeit at considerably higher density than US-style sprawl. We now have congestion problems because there was inadequate planning of road capacity, not because we did the roads we did.

I have estimated from TomTom Traffic index data and Google Earth imagery, that Auckland has 1/3 the highway lane miles and 1/5 the arterial lane miles of Indianapolis, which has a similar population. Indianapolis in the TomTom Traffic Index, scores a congestion delay of 15 minutes per 1 hour of driving at peak (other comparable US cities are similar) versus Auckland?s 45 minutes. Of course its house price median multiple happens to be stable at around 3 as well, in spite of being truly low density, unlike Auckland. ? Read more »

Combatting sneaky socialists

Earlier I blogged about the sneaky socialists who seem to always undermine public sector reform from within.

The problem is how to combat them and the their sneaky tactics:

So how should moderates in our mainstream political parties respond? The first step is to acknowledge their total failure to connect with ordinary working people. The Government doesn?t seem to realise it, but its partial move to give people free choices over schools, health and other services could be one of its most transformative legacies if properly followed through. Choice turns supplicants of state services into empowered consumers who can ditch poor providers and switch to the best, and competition between services in turn drives up quality. It is akin to Margaret Thatcher?s empowerment of the working class to own council houses and shares in public utilities. The narratives of the ?big society? and Labour?s ?one nation? alternative amount to little more than romanticist jargon in comparison.

Read more »

Sneaky Socialists undermine reforms from within

Any time any government anywhere tries public sector reform they meet a wall of resistance from the tenured bureaucracy…even when that bureaucracy is smashed and defeated they start on rear-guard actions and even?guerrilla?actions in order to handicap and white-ant policy.

They care little for democracy…thinking they know best. Nowhere is this more evident than in the health and education sectors.

According to the socialists, the only people qualified to comment on public?policy?in health and education are conveniently those who suck from the systems in need of reform, and the unions who give them sustenance.

In our politics today, hardliners who lost recent battles over social reforms designed to bring more choice and competition into schools, health and welfare services are regrouping for a new wave of local-level disruption. The casualties will be ordinary people?s aspirations.

Ideologues on the Right, who lost the argument for more zealous reforms, now only complain from largely ignored sidelines. The hard Left, however, which vehemently opposes change to how our public services operate, is shifting its attack. Its activists are mobilising to infiltrate the very public bodies being set up to deliver the reforms they oppose, aiming to undermine them from within.

Read more »

Not a wish-list, They are a to-do list.

? NZ Herald

The government has announced a must do list for the state sector to get their teeth into. About time:

The Government wants Work and Income to cut the number of long-term beneficiaries on a working-age benefit by 30 per cent over five years, Prime Minister John Key has just announced.

That would see the number of people on working age benefits drop from 78,000 to 55,000 by 2017.

It also wants to cuts criminal re-offending by 25 per cent by 2017 and cut total crime by 15 per cent.

The new goals are part of 10 specific targets the Government is setting the public sector under the programme called “better public services.”

One of the targets relating to NCEA was announced by Mr Key in March and some by Finance Minister Bill English in the Budget.

Today they have completed the list.

The welfare target just announced relates to people on unemployment related benefits, the sickness benefit, women alone benefits and sole parents and widows whose youngest children are aged over 14. All of those benefits will become known next year as”job seeker support” from July next year.

“These targets are not a wish-list,” Mr Key said. “They are a to-do list.”

The full list is:

Result 1. Reduce the number of people who have been on a working-age benefit for more than 12 months by 30 per cent by 2017.

Result 2. Increase participation in early childhood education from 94.7 per cent in 2011 to 98 per cent in 2016.

Result 3. Increase infant immunisation rates from 92.8 per cent for two-years to 95 per cent for eight month old by 2017; and reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two thirds to 1.4 cases per 100,000 by 2017.

Result 4. Reduce the number of assaults on children by 1000 – it’s on a trajectory to rise from 3000 a year to 4000 a year in 2017.

Result 5. Increasing the proportion of 18-year-olds with NCEA level 2 or equivalent from 67 per cent in 2010 to 85 per cent in 2017.

Result 6. Increase the proportion of 25 – 34 year olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees (at level four and above) from 52 per cent in 2012 to 55 per cent.

Result 7. Reduce the rates of total crime by 15 per cent by 2017 or 45,000 fewer crimes each year; reduce violent crime by 20 per cent or 7500 fewer violent crimes each year; and reduce youth crime by 5 per cent. or 600 fewer 14 – 16 year olds appearing in court.

Result 8. Reduce reoffending by 25 per cent by 2017 – which means 600 fewer prisoners and 18,500 fewer victims of crime each year from 2017.

Result 9. New Zealand businesses have a one-stop online shop for all Go Government advice and support they need to run and grow their business.

Result 10.New Zealanders can complete their transactions with Government easily in a digital environment, aiming for 70 per cent of common transaction with Governing to be done digitally compared with 24 per cent now.

Only Labour could complain about axing bureaucrats

Murray McCully is cutting the bloat out of MFaT:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed it is cutting around 300 staff as Finance Minister Bill English says it’s crunch time for the public sector.

MFAT’s chief executive John Allen this afternoon said it would be cutting 305 staff.

The news came as English said Kiwis were about to see the public service change.

English said the Government had last year told public sector chief executives to look at their own operations and ”tell us how they could be improved to deliver better services with little or no new money”.

”We gave them time to do that. We’re now at that point. That means we’ll see quite a change in how public services are delivered.”

Allen said 600 MFAT staff would have to reapply for their jobs in new specialist roles. The ministry has 1340 staff, half of which are offshore

He also confirmed changes to remuneration including offshore allowances. Staff would be asked to make a “nominal contribution” to their living costs overseas.

Only Labour could complain about axing bureaucrats:

Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesman Phil Goff said the MFAT’s cuts were disastrous at a time when New Zealand’s national interests were at risk from an unstable world.

Hmmm…I seem to remember a certain Prime Minister telling us we lived in a benign strategic environment. Has something changed. But the real question that needs to be asked of Phil Goff is “If not now then when would be a good time to cut staff?”

No downside to public sector cuts

A Fairfax Media-Research poll tells us so.

Thousands of jobs have been slashed from the state sector during the past three years, yet more voters believe the standard of public services are better under the National-led Government, a new poll shows.

The Government says that it is evidence cutbacks have not impacted on core services, but the Public Service Association believes only the goodwill of civil servants working extra hours has maintained standards and cracks will start to show.

The Fairfax Media-Research International poll of 1000 voters asked how they would rate overall standards in five key areas: public transport, policing, public hospitals, preschools, and primary and secondary schools.

Primary and secondary schools was the only sector where more voters believed standards were worse than three years ago. However, in all five categories most voters, from 35 per cent to 46.5 per cent, believed there was no difference in the quality of services.

Of course the batshit crazy wing of the Labour has something to say about this with Ruth Dyson giving us this:

“This doesn’t reflect what people in the community know are real and quite severe cuts to their services.”

So “people in the community” as distinct from a scientific sample of real New Zealand voters?

Politicians of the Week – Judith Collins and David Cameron

Multiple awards here. First up from New Zealand.

Judith Collinsfor kicking an uppity Judge to touch.

Former Supreme Court judge Bill Wilson made an ”extremely excessive” demand?for a golden handshake before he resigned, Acting Attorney-General Judith Collins said.

Parliament today held an urgent debate on the affair – which saw Mr Wilson quit last month after allegations of misconduct. His resignation took effect on Friday.

He was handed a year’s salary of $410,000 plus $475,000 in court costs.

But Ms Collins told Parliament Mr Wilson’s original demands, made weeks before, were ”absolutely excessive” and she would not ”take them further.”

The judge’s counsel approached the Solicitor General on October 4 to discuss whether, and on what terms, the judge would tender his resignation, she said.

”The terms offered by the former judge were extremely excessive and I would not countenance them. I’m not prepared to reveal them, at this stage, given that they were made in confidence.”

There were ”many” subsequent discussions about the resignation – but not with Ms Collins, who said she has never met the judge

Mr Wilson tendered his resignation on 21st October.

The case could have dragged on for ”some two years or more” with six different opportunities for appeal, Ms Collins said. The costs could have been more far more severe and ”looked very much as if they would continue into stratospheric levels.”

It was not her intention to bring about the resignation of a judge, Ms Collins said.? ”It was an extraordinarily difficult thing to oversee, however, the judge made the offer himself. It was not asked of him.”

She was ”happy to take full responsibility for those decisions and I believe those were the right decisions.”

Ms Collins also thought the court costs were very high. However she was advised they were ”reasonable.” Legislation required the costs were paid.

Legislation required the paying of the costs, legislation that Labour implemented. The best line though is this; ‘happy to take full responsibility for those decisions and I believe those were the right decisions.”

It is a precious small number of politicians who are?prepared?to say that.

Second Politician of the Week is from the UK.

David Cameron for kicking uppity teacher unions in the balls, and for coming up with something that Anne Tolley would do well to look at given the same uppitiness of the teaching unions here.

Parents will be able to rate primary and secondary schools according to detailed new information that will show not only the quality and experience of staff but also whether they offer value for money.

The proposals were made yesterday as part of?David Cameron’s pledge to shift power away from Whitehall.

The Coalition believes that, by forcing public institutions such as schools, the police and prisons to publish more information, it will allow the public to judge how they are performing.

The Prime Minister insisted that public sector reforms should be “driven not by the short-term political calculations of the Government, but by the consistent, long-term pressure of what people want and choose in their public services”.

Announcing business plans for each Whitehall department, Mr Cameron said “bureaucratic accountability” under Labour had created inefficiency, damaged morale in the public sector and promoted a culture of “short-term wins”.

The announcement in central London threatened a dispute with teaching unions after it emerged that the policy would lead to the publication of potentially sensitive details about school staff. There appeared to be no plans to disclose the salaries of other public sector workers, such as policemen or nurses.

The Department for?Education business plan says schools will be forced to disclose details of qualifications held by teachers and pay levels. Individual teachers are unlikely to be named, although reports will spell out the number of staff qualified to certain levels.

Schools will also be expected to publish figures on the number of teachers who are full and part-time and teacher absence.

If the teachers think National Standards are?appalling?I can just imagine the squealing if this was proposed for here. In fact I would stand for parliament just on that platform so I could hear their screams of anguish.