Noel Towell June 02, 2012
The ACT public service will be forced to bear the brunt of more cost-cutting in the wake of Tuesday's territory budget, but the government says there will be no forced redundancies.
High-flyers in the senior executive service are in the government's sights with ''several'' lucrative contracts expected not to be renewed.
The ACT government, which has pledged to maintain overall employment levels in the service, will end the 2011-12 financial year with a $125 million deficit, it will be announced on Tuesday. The federal government's dash to get its budget into surplus next year has pushed more than $55 million from federal to territory coffers before June 30, delivering a smaller than expected deficit for the ACT this year.
But Treasurer Andrew Barr has warned that the ''withdrawal'' of the Commonwealth from the local economy in 2012-13 will leave a large hole in the territory's finances in the coming financial year and the ACT public service would be forced to endure more belt-tightening.
Mr Barr said Treasury officials had expected the ACT's budget position to be about $180 million in deficit. But about $55 million in Commonwealth spending brought forward meant the deficit figure would be much reduced.
''Since the mid-year update and the Commonwealth budget, we have a firmer estimate on what we think the headline position will be for 2011-12 and that's a fairly significant improvement to an anticipated deficit of $125 million,'' Mr Barr said.
''The reason for that is largely the timing of Commonwealth payments. The Commonwealth budget brought forward a number of the payments we had been anticipating in 2012-13 and pushed them to this side of June 30.''
Mr Barr listed a number of territory-Commonwealth joint ventures around the capital as projects where federal money had come in early.
''Among the components of that additional Commonwealth payment is the Constitution Avenue money [$22 million], the Manuka Oval lights money comes this side of June and there are a few other odds and sods, including payments for national partnerships,'' he said.
''The impact of that is a lower deficit this year from what we were anticipating this year, but with the positive of more money in 2011-12, that means less from the Commonwealth in 2012-13.
''This has been reported on widely, that the Commonwealth pushed as much money out the door before June 30 and that has implications for our budget, has effectively moved the goal posts across all of those adjustments.''
Mr Barr said that any new, non-health expenditure announced in Tuesday's budget would be matched by spending cuts.
''All new expenditure, outside of the health growth envelope will be fully offset with savings,'' he said.
''There will be reduction in a variety of administrative areas, consultancy, travel, printing, training, car fleet etc. But what we will be doing is moving some frontline service requirements, in health, in education that's staffing the new schools that open next year. There will be more resources in child protection and the ambulance service.''
The Treasurer said it was important to maintain employment levels in the ACT public service, as its federal counterpart experiences a contraction in its workforce. ''Those areas of high priority in terms of frontline service delivery, there will be growth in employment in those areas, but that will be offset by job losses in other areas of the service. But overall, the net position will be a maintenance of our employment levels,'' he said.
''A large number have been achieved through natural attrition, there will be some voluntary redundancies, there have been all through this year. We're targeting the SES and there are a number of contracts that expire over the next two or three years that won't be renewed and those savings will be taken through the budget.''