Finance Minister Nicola Willis tight-lipped on how many public service jobs will be cut

Finance Minister Nicola Willis remains tight-lipped on how many people public service job cuts there will be to pay for promised tax breaks.  

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon warned on AM last year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) could "absolutely" lose 30 percent of staff under his Government.  

National is committed to delivering on its promised tax cuts and campaigned on slashing spending across agencies.  

But to pay for them, departments have been going through their books line by line, trying to figure out how to meet the Government's 6.5 or 7.5 percent cost-saving target, with hiring freezes and job cut proposals in full force.  

Luxon and Willis met with the heads of 48 public sector departments on Monday evening to discuss their expectations and how they want to work together to get better results for New Zealanders.  

Willis joined AM on Thursday morning and told the show the questions raised in the meeting were "constructive and positive". 

"Chris [Christopher] Luxon talked with them about the turnaround job we've embarked on for the country. I talked with them about our expectations that they deliver more value for every taxpayer dollar," Willis told AM co-host Lloyd Burr.  

"The questions were constructive and positive [and] they want to work with us. Public servants become public servants because they want to make a difference for the country and we've got chief executives who are determined to do that job."  

Willis told AM all the heads of the public sector departments were confident they would be able to achieve the cost savings target. 

"They've been really engaged in that exercise and they've engaged their staff in that exercise and they're proactively coming up with ideas for delivering better value and delivering savings," she said.  

Burr pressed Willis on that asking if the reason they all were so confident they could achieve the savings target is because "they were too scared to say" otherwise.  

"I think they can deliver it. I think many of them know that the track we've been on as a country is unsustainable, an 80 percent increase in government spending in the past six years, and where are the results to show for that," she said.   

"Whether it's increased hospital waiting lists, declining education and achievement, increased violent crime, we just haven't been getting bang for buck and public servants know we have to do better." 

Finance Minister Nicola Willis is confident government departments will meet their savings targets.
Finance Minister Nicola Willis is confident government departments will meet their savings targets. Photo credit: AM

Questions then turned to how people would lose their jobs, with Burr asking Willis if she had crunched the numbers. 

"I don't have those numbers yet," Willis replied. "The process we're running through is that proposals are being put up to ministers for where savings can be delivered.  

"We've asked agencies to focus on low-value programs, back-office bureaucracy, reducing the amount they're spending on consultants and contractors. Inevitably, some of those proposals will involve restructuring and fewer roles in some entities but I don't have a forecast for those numbers yet." 

Burr continued to press Willis on the figure, saying, "Surely you've got a ballpark figure" as questions around this date back to the election campaign last year.  

"No, I don't have those numbers because the process we ran is that individual proposals by agencies are now going through an assurance process," she replied.  

"Ministers will then consider those proposals. We might reject some of them, we might ask some of them to go a bit further and then we'll take all of those together and assess the implications for headcount from there." 

Watch the full interview above.