Prime Minister Bill English majored in English Literature and this background has taught him the importance of caring for books. Under his stewardship as Treasurer, and now Prime Minister, the Government's books having never been in better shape. Bill has instructed and guided all Ministers about the proper care of their books and much effort and staffing has been put into dusting and polishing their books and making sure they are neatly arranged.
While there has been much demand on the Government and its Ministers to open their books and be a little more generous in their use, strong discipline has been needed to ensure that the books remain firmly on the shelves. Open books and dog-eared pages are an anathema to Bill and when his footsteps are heard around the beehive corridors there is a flurry of activity as books are hurriedly closed and shelved.
This focus on book-keeping has meant necessary sacrifices have had to be made:
- Police numbers have been kept at a minimum despite rising crime and dropping resolution rates.
- Special needs funding for schools has been reduced and Teacher Aids are maintained on a minimum wage while the numbers of children with high needs grows.
- Social worker numbers have been reduced over time despite the damning review of CYFs and concerns from successive Children's Commissioners.
- State houses continue to be sold off despite increasing homelessness and old motels have become a cheaper accommodation alternative.
- Ignoring climate change and our Paris Commitments and not having a proper plan has saved millions in the short term.
- Demanding data sharing from NGO service providers (causing them to withdraw from government funding) and capping support has helped reduce the cost of services immensely.
- Cutting DoCs budget and shifting to a volunteer workforce has saved hundreds of millions.
- Ongoing underfunding of the health system has saved almost $2 billion.
Bill English celebrated his success at keeping the books in good shape and achieving an incredible $1.8 billion budget surplus by eating a pie, it would be out of character to spend anything more to recognise this achievement.
I guess all of us should feel a level of pride in contributing to what may be the best looking government books in the world. By sleeping in a car, waiting a few years for a hip replacement or eye surgery and suffering the occasional flood or home invasion we have collectively supported Bill's dream. He will go down in history as one of New Zealand's best bookkeepers.