Plans to cut spending in the public service are deeper and wider than the National Party originally proposed, sparking fears about what it could mean for front line services.

To help pay for its proposed tax cuts, the party said in August it would slash funding to 24 agencies by 6.5%.

Now, it’s jumped to 39 agencies, with a dozen needing to find savings of 7.5%.

The Labour-aligned Council for Trade Unions (CTU) is now calling for protection of front line jobs.

“Members are concerned [cuts are] going to mean fewer public services and poorer quality public services when [people] need them,” CTU economist Craig Rennie said.

“That should worry everyone who uses public services.”

During the campaign, National promised only to target backroom jobs and protect front line services.

But for many, it’s still unclear as to what counts as a front line service.

When asked, Finance Minister Nicola Willis said: “We haven’t gone through the exercise of defining that for all 39 agencies.

“Instead, we’ve asked chief execs to exercise their judgements in putting forward proposals, and of course that will vary from department to department.”

Rennie, who is also on Labour’s policy council, said that a lack of definition is a problem and wants protection for the front line.

“We don’t know what that means, not only for what people would traditionally think of front line, but what that means for biosecurity, cybersecurity, for search and rescue — all of which appear to be inside the scope of the cuts.”

When asked by 1News if she sees cuts affecting front line services, Willis said: “No, our government’s goal is to improve the delivery of front line services.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has sent out offers of voluntary redundancies to staff, while the health ministry has paused recruitment.

The true effect of the cuts won’t be felt until after the budget.

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