Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Random amputation

When Heather Roy let slip last month that the government's razor gang has been instructed to slash 10% from departmental budgets, Bill English was quick to reassure us, saying that "There is no blanket, across the board figure applied at the high end level".

He lied. Documents uncovered by the Dominion-Post reveal exactly that sort of target: a demand for blanket, across the board cuts of 10%:

[A] paper issued under the Official Information Act, offering "guidance for carrying out the reviews", makes it clear savings of that size some of which will be switched to other areas are under consideration. In the paper, attached to a letter from Finance Minister Bill English late last year, chief executives were told: "Using your detailed knowledge of both the department and sector ... can you identify the spending that delivers the lowest value for money, say, the bottom 5 per cent and 10 per cent."
This is not "trimming the fat" - contrary to the right's propaganda, there is precious little fat in the public service to trim. Instead, it's a programme of random amputation. Cuts this deep will mean restructurings, layoffs, cancelled projects, deferred maintenance, a general running down of the public sector. It will mean dirty hospitals, falling down schools, underpaid teachers, and the outsourcing of core government functions to overpaid "consultants". And all so National's rich friends can get their tax cuts.

That wasn't what smiling John Key promised during the election. But National seems to regard its election promises as lies to children, told for the purpose of getting elected and then ignored. Just like in the 90's.