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Plain English June 2005

Plain English June 2005

The Fluttering Sound of Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Clutha Southland voters are telling me it's time for National's careful use of taxpayer's money. Good management of public money is about the basics - setting priorities, holding people accountable, getting more service for more resource. Cullen's reputation as a tight finance minister is not justified. High profile waste like the hip-hop tours and dodgy tertiary courses are just the tip of the iceberg. The real rot runs deep in the public sector where too many people believe the money doesn't matter and that they won't be held accountable. The idea that more money should mean more and better service is gone. So is the idea of priorities. These days everything is important.

My voters can tell. They translate the weasel words like "collaboration" "partnership" "cohesiveness" and "strategic" as big government wasting more money. And they are right. They want to hear more about value for money. They want to see more services for more spending.

Labour says National Was Right

Cullen confirmed everything National has said about Labour's big spending habits when he said this week Labour had to rein in its spending, naming health and education, where spending has been huge. For instance Labour are spending 30% more on schools than 5 years ago, and according to a recent Herald poll most people think the quality is the same or worse. They are right. Health spending has gone up about 50% with no noticeable benefit except that public sector lobby groups have gone quiet.

Treasury have told the government the state wage bill will rise by $1 billion per year for the foreseeable future. It will cost the taxpayer $1 billion more each budget just to pay the wages of existing state employees because of a series of very friendly pay deals including bonuses for those who join the public sector unions.

The Treasury papers also tell the Labour government that unless they start making some choices about how to spend, they will run out of choices. So tired Labour ministers are grappling with the dawning realisation that they have been very lucky, not very competent. They aren't sure whether it's worth getting re-elected if they can't keep spending.

Clutha Community Awards

The annual awards for community organisations in South Otago are about positive collective action that contrasts starkly with big spending bureaucracies - a strong community with active leadership following its own aspirations. We heard a story about the two ladies now in their 80's who have repaired the hire costumes at South Otago Theatrical Society for 40 years, and another one about the RSA welfare officer who has done years of hospital visiting.

Kaitangata Promotions won the main award. You have to admire the determination of a group that sets out to promote any small town. They have tidied Kaitangata and they're working with Solid Energy on how to make an attraction out of the now closed coalmines in the area. And they do it for nothing, with a bit of support from the council. These voluntary groups aren't bogged down into irrelevance by networking sessions, consultation meetings advocacy workshops, bicultural consultants or glossy strategic plans. What a relief.


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