Boris Johnson has done a great service for politicians everywhere by testing the political waters for tax increases. He and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, are ratcheting up Britain’s taxes to pay for care homes. And Covid of course. Pretty much everything it seems.
The new tax is not really that new: a levy on labour incomes (i.e., salaries, wages and self-employment) of 2.5 percentage points, with an increase in dividend taxes of half that. Boris – with flagrant disregard for Econ 101 – claims that business will share this burden. Sorry Boris and Rishi – labour taxes fall on labour.
Meanwhile, the Financial Times gloomily opines that the move will raise the UK’s tax burden to the highest level since 1950 – about the time when Boris’s hero, Winston Churchill, was heading for a second term as PM.
Boris has a reputation for being better on the strategic than the tactical decisions. So, will the tax increase work?
Continue reading “Boris keeps on gambling”
It’s not unusual for governments to decide the solution to their frustrations is to tweak the machinery of government. Nor for senior public servants to channel those ambitions to safety.
But things look more serious in the UK. A sequence of reports from high-powered ‘independent’ commissions and well-connected think tanks are floating proposals which bear more than a resemblance to the state sector reforms implemented in New Zealand at the end of last century.
For one of the key players, the seeds of change were planted back in 2010. Back then, Michael Gove (now the Minister for the Cabinet Office) was put in charge of education. He coined the term ‘the Blob’ to describe the coalition of resistant civil servants and external ideologists who opposed his proposals to change the school system. And helping him on the Blob job was Dominic Cummings – PM Boris Johnson’s erstwhile chief strategist.
Continue reading “NZ public service reform for the UK?”
Hosannas for one of the latest handouts from the so-called Provincial Growth Fund – a $94.8m “investment” to bring up to operational standard a 54km section of the Northland rail line – were muted, not surprisingly.
NZ’s state-owned KiwiRail, which racked up a $235m loss in the 2018 year, and a $197m loss the year before that, looks as if it will be saddled with yet more loss-making services – but Deputy PM Winston Peters justifies the investment on the grounds the rail line to Whangarei would otherwise become “unsafe” and have to close within 5 years.
Continue reading “Good for Northlanders – but how about the rest of taxpayers?”
Is the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at risk of losing the halo she has worn so gracefully for so long?
No way, say her legions of supporters.
Just look at the reaction when Sydney radio veteran Alan Jones called on Australian PM Scott Morrison to “shove a sock down her throat”.
Continue reading “Is PM Ardern’s halo beginning to slip?”
Ethnic Communities Minister Jenny Salesa earlier this month announced the Cabinet decision to have ethnicity data collected for candidates appointed to State sector boards and committees.
These data would be used “to identify opportunities and challenges in delivering our goal of ensuring Government bodies have a balanced membership reflective of wider New Zealand society.”
This raises the question of whether “political” considerations come into the attempt to balance membership and – if so – to what extent.
Governments notoriously find jobs for political croneys and friends, although the glare of publicity sometimes can trigger a reconsideration as happened in the case of millionaire Derek Handley who will received $100,000 after the Government pulled the plug on his appointment as chief technology.
More interesting, Salesa’s press statement drew attention to the numbers of croneys and friends for whom jobs could be found – potentially – if ministers paid no heed to the need for “balance” and/or relevant competence.
Every year the Government makes appointments to 429 State sector boards and committees, she said. Continue reading “Political appointments – see who landed jobs in the latest batch of ministerial announcements”
Earlier this month Jenny Shipley announced she would step down as chair of Genesis Energy at the annual meeting in October after nine years in the role. Her decision followed a week after Transpower’s chair, Tony Ryall, said he had notified the company’s shareholding ministers he will retire from the board of Transpower effective December 31.
Only people prone to conspiracy theories would see anything other than a coincidence in the timing of these two announcements.
Yet those familiar with political events over the past two decades – or three – may recall both Shipley and Ryall share a bit of history with none other than Winston Peters, who happens to be something more than Deputy PM in the Labour-NZ First government and Minister of Foreign Affairs. He also holds the State-owned Enterprises portfolio. Continue reading “The political power game: energy company resignations suggest the trough has been tipped”
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, announcing five top appointments in the state sector, said he decided to deal with the vacancies as a package to remove uncertainty and maintain momentum in key roles and portfolios.
The Dominion-Post headlined the news as“Upheaval for public service”. Richard Harman in Politik, labeling it as the most comprehensive reshuffle of top public service management “ever”, argued the govt is saying the move reflects its desire that a more unified old-style public service be further developed. David Farrar, in Kiwiblog, noting the appointments were made by transfer, thought this is the first time this power has been used.
“It is very good to see these decisions made before most of the roles fall vacant. This means no need for an Acting CE, and gives good continuity and direction”.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commisioner Dr Jackie Blue has a different take on it. She blasted the process as unfair to top women in the public service, and contended the vacant positions should have been contestable. Continue reading “State services: what’s behind the “upheaval”?”