by Denise Roche
All analysis of the budget announced yesterday shows that there’s little in it to improve the lives of low and middle income workers and in fact they’ll be worse off.
Tertiary students, old people, the disability sector and even school kids with regular work are all being shaken for a bit more cash to add to the coffers. We might have been able to swallow this if the burden had been more equitably shared, but the greatest burden the wealthy will have to suffer is losing the tax loophole they’ve enjoyed on their yachts, holiday homes and private aeroplanes if they’re not really renting them out.
And if that wasn’t enough of an insult we will all bear the burden of reduced services while the government cuts back on spending. We know – because the Public Service Association has been keeping count – that over the last three and a half years over 5000 jobs have gone from the public service. Jobs have been cut and jobs have simply not been filled.
The government may call this efficiency but what it is – is a massive reduction in the services that New Zealanders expect. That lack of service includes cuts to biosecurity services that put our primary production exports at risk and cuts to our embassies that put our international reputation at risk and the replacement of real people with call centres at Housing NZ and tax offices.
We can expect to see more reductions in what we would normally expect from state services too. Government spending includes the contracts that government has with the community sector and they are looking to carve more services off the state and devolve these responsibilities to community organisations, without funding to follow, so things aren’t about to pick up any time soon
Last year we saw a reduction in the amount of money allocated to the Community and Voluntary sector. It dropped by around $11 million. This Budget holds even worse news for the sector. In the Social Development vote alone we see the following cuts:
Budget Cuts – Social Development
Prevention Services was $4.6m now $4m
Social Policy Advice was $37.2m now $30.5m
Youth Justice Services was $137m now $132m
Connected Communities was $16.8m now $15m
Strong Families was $120m now $104m
The Community Response Fund has been removed.
All up the community and voluntary sector is not faring well under this National-led government. This week the government also decided to shut down the only regulatory body tasked with regulating and supporting the sector.
The day before budget day the government – supported by that self-styled ‘friend’ of the sector, the Honourable Peter Dunne – moved one step closer to merging the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs. This happened despite a rising chorus of concern from community organisations in support of its retention, and no evidence that its demise would save any money.
While the Charities Commission has previously come under fire for its handling of some organisations’ applications for registration, community sector organisations have very little confidence that the DIA will do any better. And indeed, if the Gambling Commission (more about this at a later stage) is any example, it’s likely to do much worse.
The vote to do away with the Charities Commission (part of the Crown Entities Reform Bill) has been held over until after the Budget debate. The Greens, the Labour Party, the Māori Party and Mana Party all oppose merging the Charities Commission with the Department which means the vote is split 61 to 60. That gives community organisations a week or so to lobby the Hons Peter Dunne or John Banks to get them to change their minds.