Labour is calling on the Government to explain a blowout in contractor spending after revelations that some departments have tripled their costs for consultants in three years.

New figures show that since the National Party came into power a number of Government departments have posted significantly increased costs for consultants.

Among the more dramatic increases during the period from 2008 to 2011, the Treasury increased its payments to consultants from $1.4 million to $8m, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry from $4.2m to $12.6m, and the Department of Culture and Heritage from $317,000 to $1.4m.

While in opposition, National attacked the then-Labour Government over consultancy spending, and now Labour is calling for an explanation for the latest figures.

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Labour state services spokesman Chris Hipkins said that despite "a load of tough talk", the Government had failed to deliver on repeated promises to make the public service more efficient, and that New Zealanders were "now paying more in order to get less".

"National can't duck responsibility for this - it has promised a more efficient, more responsive public service," Mr Hipkins said.

"Now it's time to explain why spending millions of dollars on consultants is doing to deliver that."

Mr Hipkins said he had heard stories about people being made redundant, taking their pay-out, then being hired back within weeks on consultants rates.