The cash-strapped NT Government has agreed to put a lid on wages spending.
Treasurer Nicole Manison today announced a staffing cap – including on executive positions - for the public service.
A financial audit late last year found the government was borrowing $4 million a day to keep operating.
Ms Manison said the cap would be set at the 2018 average staffing level (21,118) which will see a cabinet approved reduction of around 300 positions across the public sector.
Those 300 positions would be chopped within a year.
Reports from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Employment show the NT Government had 20,596 public servants about the time the Gunner ALP came to power in August 2016.
Ms Manison said government agencies over their new staffing cap have 12-months to comply and will be monitored monthly.
Government election commitments and front-line delivery (such as police, teachers and nurses) will not be impacted, Ms Manison said.
Any special case requests for staffing will need to be approved by Cabinet.
The NT Government faces a fast rising net debt, rising from $1.7 billion when it won government to an expected $4.5 billion at the end of this financial year, and an expected $35.7 billion by 2029-30.
The plan to stop growth in public sector numbers was part of previously announced $800 million public sector savings.
The cap at the 2018 average staffing level provides a specific number to achieve.
The cap is separate from the budget repair work already underway which includes the Root and Branch review of department spending and John Langoulant report into returning the NT budget to a long-term sustainable position.
The results of that review and report will be announced ahead of the 2019 budget.
“The $867 million deficit left by the CLP and the Federal Government’s $500 million annual GST reduction means tough decisions are needed to fix the Territory budget," Ms Manison said.
“Agencies must live within their means and setting a specific cap will ensure they do and help tackle expenditure growth.
“Fixing the budget allows us to keep investing in job-creating projects, tackling crime and generational change.
“We will not take the CLP approach of slashing and burning, selling assets and massively hiking power and water costs.”
The announcement by Treasurer Nicole Manison that NT public service jobs will be cut by 300 is too little, too late, according to Leader of the Opposition Gary Higgins.
In April last year Ms Manison announced government would consider a “position freeze within the public sector to limit FTE growth” (media release, 20 April 2018).
“Government failed to go forward with that and now, 12 months later, when the pressure is on, the Treasurer has re-announced their intentions,” Mr Higgins said.
“We have been calling on the government for months to implement an executive position freeze – they have stubbornly refused to acknowledge those calls. This could have been done months ago.
“If Labor fails to deliver on a promise from nearly 12 months ago, how can we trust the Gunner Government to deliver anything else in a timely manner when it matters most?
“The Treasurer has referred to $800 million in savings – you can’t trust her on that figure either. This is a projected figure from the time of taking government through to 2021/22.
“The facts are in the first year of the Labor government expenses increased by $57.25 million as they proceeded on a path to insolvency and the financial crisis outlined in the December 2018 report.
“This is another reason the Territory has no confidence in this government who is not meeting community expectations.”
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