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Core public service numbers continue to shrink

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman
Minister of State Services
30 August 2012 Media Statement

Core public service numbers continue to shrink

The size of the core public service has reduced by 555 positions in the six months to June, which is 574 positions below the “cap”, the State Services Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman has announced.

“The government pledged to cap the size of the core public service during the 2011 election campaign to 36,475 and Cabinet set it at that figure in March 2012,” said Dr Coleman.

“As a result of our focus on a more efficient public service that delivers results to New Zealanders the number of positions in the our public service has now dropped to 35,901,” he said.

“The trend is a reflection of the change programmes which have been undertaken by a number of government agencies in the first half of this year,” said Dr Coleman.

“At the same time the Kiwis Count survey shows that the public appreciation of frontline services is increasing.”

“It’s also important to note that the cap excludes frontline staff in the Community Probation and Psychological Service and Prison Service sections of the Department of Corrections, and the Child, Youth and Family, and Work and Income sections of the Ministry of Social Development,” Dr Coleman said.

Staff positions over this same period rose by 96 full-time positions in these essential frontline public services.

“The size of core government administration is forecast to decrease further by 62 positions in the 12 months to 30 June 2013, and then by a further 321 positions in the following 12 months to 30 June 2014,” said the Minister.

Public service communications staff numbers remained relatively static over the last six months with only 3.4 FTE communications professionals added to the 270 FTE reported in December 2011.

Questions and Answers are attached.

For the latest capping data visit:

For previous capping data visit:

Question and Answers

What is the reset cap on core government administration?
The cap was reset in March at 36,475 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions for core government administration.

What is core government administration?
All public service departments (excluding the Community Probation and Psychological Service and Prison Service sections of the Department of Corrections, and the Child, Youth and Family, and Work and Income sections of the Ministry of Social Development) and five selected Crown entities: Housing New Zealand Corporation, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, New Zealand Transport Agency, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and Tertiary Education Commission.

What is the total reduction in FTE positions?
Since the cap was set in December 2008, the total number of FTE positions within core government administration decreased by 2958, reducing from 38,859 in December 2008 to 35,901 in June 2012.

How is this different from the last six months?
Core government administration had net reduction of 555 FTEs at 30 June 2012 than at 31 December last year. This is 574 positions below the cap.

How is the capping data collected?
For 30 June figures, department staff numbers are collected through the SSC Human Resource Capability (HRC) survey. This is an annual collection of anonymous unit record HR data from both Public Service and non-Public Service departments. The HRC team produce a series of reports based on this information, and report the findings in the HRC Public Report.

For the 31 December total, a staffing survey is carried out to update the figures.

What does the Government hope to achieve with this policy?
Achieving the aims of this policy goes beyond a focus on staff numbers. It involves smarter ways of working to achieve better service delivery and ensuring that all expenditure is carefully and appropriately managed within reducing departmental baselines.

How does this policy fit with the Government’s priority to grow the economy?
This policy ensures a rebalancing of people and money to areas that improve services to New Zealanders and increase the efficiency of the public service.

How is the cap applied?
The cap is applied globally, to the whole of core government administration not to the individual agencies.

How is the cap monitored?
The SSC collects information on staff levels for departments and selected Crown entities every six months, which is reported to Cabinet and used for monitoring purposes.

Who is responsible for ensuring departments keep staff numbers within the cap?
Public Service chief executives and Crown entity Board chairs are to advise the State Services Commissioner (and responsible Ministers in the case of Crown entities) if they propose to increase staff numbers beyond their baseline establishment figures

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