With Longstone gone, will Parata be next?
Wednesday 19 Dec 2012 5:02 p.m.
Lesley Longstone, the chief executive of the Ministry of Education, has quit her job after a year of botch-ups.
And the problem seems to be with her minister, Hekia Parata – with their relationship completely breaking down.
It means Ms Longstone is in line for a payout of possibly over $1 million. But Ms Parata, it seems, is going nowhere.
Ms Longstone never really had time to get comfortable in New Zealand. All year the Ministry Of Education has seen bungles, botch-ups and embarrassments.
And today State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie announced her departure.
“Lesley and I have decided that the best interests of the ministry would best be served by her stepping down,” he says.
“We've found ourselves in a difficult position, and it has been resolved.
“She has resigned and she's leaving the ministry.”
Ms Longstone was previously a high-flying bureaucrat in the UK, but she was chief executive and Education Secretary here for just a year.
Everybody knows the stuff-ups – there was the U-turn over classroom sizes, then the Christchurch school closures, and the Novopay – “no pay” – debacle, so her leaving will come as no surprise whatsoever.
Ms Longstone's relationship with the disaster-prone Minister of Education had completely broken down, and the State Services Commissioner was forced to step in.
“There's clearly been strains in the relationship,” says Mr Rennie.
Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff says the minister herself should be the next to go.
“The minister needs to be sacked or replaced,” he says.
But there was no response from Ms Parata at work or at home today – her office said, she's on holiday.
And while Prime Minister John Key was all good to go ‘Gangnam Style’ on breakfast radio, he refused to front to say why Ms Parata gets to keep her job.
Ms Longstone's departure will come at a cost, as Mr Rennie admits.
“There is a consideration that she has ended her contract early,” he says.
Ms Longstone has been earning more than $500,000 a year, and she's on a five-year contract with four still to run, so a payout of up to $1 million or more was not ruled out today.
Ms Longstone has emailed staff, saying, "There has been real disquiet relating to a range of issues,” and, "I hope that you, like me, will find real peace in the Christmas season.”
And with that – it was so long to Lesley Longstone.
- READ MORE: Longstone's letter to staff in full