The Opposition leader hits back at claims the previous Govt critically underfunded key areas of public service, accusing the PM of playing politics and spinning the issue

Opposition leader Simon Bridges says claims by the Government that National neglected key areas of public service while in Government is “pure, manufactured spin.”

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed next month’s Budget will be a “rebuilding budget,” calling out the previous National-led Government for neglecting public services such as health and education.

Ardern dampened expectations around what to expect on May 17, saying the Government has had to “reprioritise” some of its spending so it can fix the issues left by the last Government.

But Bridges says if there is an issue, it’s “a problem entirely of their own making.”

“This is pure spin from a Government that has overpromised significantly in Opposition and now is going to underdeliver.”

Bridges says the National-led Government left behind strong books, a strong economy and “very resilient public services.”

He takes aim at the Government’s already flagged $2.8 billion on its fees-free tertiary education policy and well as the $1 billion a year Provincial Growth Fund as areas where the Government is spending too much money.

“If this is a real crisis, which it isn’t, then they should be changing their [spending] priorities.”

Ardern used the issues at Middlemore Hospital, where mould had been discovered on walls and in ceilings, as an example of the issues facing the entire healthcare system.

But Bridges says talks of a “crisis” in the health sector, are overblown.

He says the issues which have come to light are in the vicinity of tens of millions – “that is a slither in a $17 billion health budget in a health system that overall is strong and resilient.”

He says he has been to public hospitals roughly 20 times within the last year and it is a “first-class health system that is strong and resilient and New Zealanders know this.”

The Government has two options come Budget day, he says: let down the teachers and nurses they promised so much, or tax, borrow and spends a lot more money.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says the Government will be sticking to its budget responsibility rules – keeping Crown spending at roughly 30% of GDP and reducing public debt to 20% of GDP by 2021/2022.

Drip feeding more information

Speaking to media this morning, Ardern said the Government will be releasing more information on the scale of the problems it’s facing in the coming weeks.  

Both Ardern and Robertson have outlined the health sector requires an additional $10 billion in Crown funding over the next decade.

But the Prime Minister was not giving any specifics on what that figure might look like when it comes to education funding.

“The Minister of Education is going to spend a bit more time detailing some of the things that we anticipated with a bit more specificity.”

She said on Monday the Government would be revealing more information relating to the scale of the funding shortfall in the lead up to the Budget.

Bridges says she is simply playing politics.

“We have a Prime Minister who says she would be better than playing politics but is now looking to drip feed examples.”