A key part of my job is to get good quality public services for the $30,000 the average Nelson household pays in tax each year. My concern is the new Government’s policy of scrapping the measures that help ensure improved health care, better schools and safer communities.
Health Minister David Clark announced last week he was getting rid of the nationwide performance measures for District Health Boards. These report publicly on issues like getting treated promptly at emergency departments, getting more people elective surgery, meeting treatment times for cancer patients and improving child immunization rates. We could previously compare how Nelson was doing relative to the 20 other DHBs and whether services were improving. Now we won’t know.
The new Government has done likewise in schools, removing the requirement for reporting on national standards in literacy and numeracy. These gave parents comparative data on how their children were doing and the Ministry of Education information on where schools were failing. This week I had Nelson School Boards raising concerns with me about the lack of any replacement system.
We are now the only developed country not to require primary pupils learning to be assessed and reported against national benchmarks. I am also nervous of Labour’s proposals to remove exams from NCEA Level 1 at Year 11 or fifth form.
Police performance targets have also been dropped. National increased police funding by $500 million last year but sought with it, improved response times for burglaries requiring 98% to be responded to within 48 hours. We also set targets for improved accessibility in regional New Zealand for 24/7 police stations requiring stations like Motueka going 24/7.
The ten better Public Service targets across all Government agencies were scrapped in January. These covered areas like reducing by 25% children hospital admissions for preventable diseases, reducing by 25% waiting times for state housing for high need families and reducing reoffending by criminals by 10,000 by 2021. Dedicated public servants have expressed disappointment to me that these are gone as they said they helped focus the department’s efforts and helped get agencies working together.
I do not mind a new Government changing priorities or improving on how results are measured. My problem is that if you don’t measure it, you won’t manage it. Labour says they are increasing spending and the public should just trust them to do better.
Spending on health and education is increased by every Government. The increases in health were this year smaller than last years. The increases in education were a fraction of what Labour promised. Regardless of the spending, we need to be focussed on improving services.
The refusal of the Government to have measurable performance targets for our public services is a step backward. Good intentions are not enough. It is results that matter.