Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Budget leaves police out in cold

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Photo / File
Photo / File

Ah. The Budget. A cautious, steady-as-she-goes document with just enough give and take among the different government departments to ward off strident criticism from voters.

We saw the many faces of National in Bill English's fifth Budget. There was the prudent, fiscally responsible National with an emphasis on moving the Government's books back into the black after years of deficits; the priority to cut government debt; the steely resolve to continue on with the partial sale of state assets and the nod to business with cuts in ACC levies.

There was the get-tough-on-malingerers with the announcement of a crackdown on overseas student loan defaulters (and not before bloody time) that came with a warning that flagrant and persistent defaulters will be stopped at the border if they try to return home.

Tough-love National put state house tenants on notice that a state house won't necessarily mean a home for life.

There was the "oh, all right, give them something to shut them up and stop them moaning" face of the Government - in the form of more money for home insulation, warrants of fitness for state rental houses and a scheme to enable low-income individuals to borrow money at low or no interest and avoid the loan sharks that are the cause of so much debt and misery.

I love this initiative - micro-financing has worked wonderfully well for the most part in the developing world and I see no reason it shouldn't work just as well here.

And then there was the facing reality, pragmatic face of National with its urgent legislation to cut through council inertia and time-wasting red tape to free up land for housing developments.

There was also the establishment of new powers for the Reserve Bank to impose stricter lending criteria on banks and financial institutions to avoid a boom and bust in the housing market.

Just over $2 billion has been earmarked for Christchurch and the Government is banking on the building of new homes in Auckland as well as the rebuild of Christchurch to stimulate the economy and boost employment.

Health and education were same old, same old - no surprises there - but I was astonished to see that the police were given nothing. Nada. Zip.

A parent of an adult disabled child told me about the $100 million that has been allocated to parent caregiver families (only after a protracted court case, not out of the goodness of National's heart). She said that although the amount of money they've been awarded is minimal, it's better than nothing and made her feel that the work she was doing was valued.

I wonder how our police feel, then, after not getting so much as a dollar. Maybe they're doing too good a job of managing their money.

I remember years ago, in television, I came in under budget on a film shoot and was told to massage the figures to produce a slight cost overrun. Otherwise, said the canny producer, the bean-counters would expect us to do our jobs for less.

Overall, a steady-as-she-goes Budget and, while different lobby groups can grizzle and whine about a lack of vision and a lack of imagination, steady as she goes is probably the only Budget that could have been delivered in these precarious times.

- Herald on Sunday

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