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Govt committed to improving frontline services


Hon Bill English
Minister of Finance

29 March 2011
Embargoed until 10.30am Media Statement

Govt committed to improving frontline services

Change in the public service will need to pick up momentum to meet the Government's goals of high-quality frontline services with little extra money, Finance Minister Bill English says.

"Getting on top of our fiscal position, and rebalancing the economy, necessarily means the Government being a smaller part of the economy than it is now," Mr English said in a speech to the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand (IPANZ) in Wellington today.

"The longer we are in office the more it is clear that the costs of running government are too high, there is too much duplication and the organisation is too cluttered. We are confident that over time we can continue to get better value for money in the public sector."

The Government had three objectives in its approach to state sector reform:

Clear priorities: focusing on the things that matter to New Zealanders.
High-quality services: ensuring services are modern, responsive and provide good value for money.
Reducing waste: ensuring that government is as efficient and well-organised as it can be.

"This is essentially about identifying the things that matter most to New Zealanders, doing them better and doing them with less back-office bureaucracy.

"This Government has a high threshold for structural change and that remains the case. But where the benefits – in terms of enhancements to frontline services and fiscal savings – exceed the costs, the Government will certainly entertain changes."

Mr English said details of projects would be released as they came up, but work would continue for two or three years as Ministers and officials worked their way through individual projects on a case-by-case basis.

"Structural changes are only one part and, in the end, not the most important part of the Government's move to pick up the pace of public sector reform.

"So alongside that particular stream of work you should expect to see more back office savings initiatives, fewer positions in core government administration and more projects that tackle the challenge of more for less."

For example, in coming weeks the Government would release results of benchmarking the administrative and support services of 33 agencies.

"This is challenging chief executives to lift their game, learn from other agencies, and look at other ways of providing back office support."

The Government would also continue to identify lower-value spending that would be better put into higher-priority activities.

However the Government was not interested in change for its own sake and the public service itself had an important role to play in implementing change.

"We are a Government that is interested in what works, and that needs to be worked through on a case-by-case basis.

"We are committed to making considered decisions and are open to ideas or propositions from the public sector itself. We want to work with public servants to ensure we improve the focus and results of the public service as a whole," Mr English said.


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