The Federal Government says public sector staffing will rise for the next year, before being cut back.

This week’s budget announcement revealed there will be a COVID-19 boost to APS staffing levels, but the increase will then be swapped for efforts to shrink the workforce back to 2006-07 levels over the next four years.

APS numbers will increase to over 170,000 in 2020-21, up from last year’s top of 166,762. Measures will then kick in to reduce numbers to 2006-07 levels, when staff numbered 167,596.

“Public sector staffing is not a substitute for private employment and our focus is on supporting job creation through private investment and economic growth as part of our JobMaker Plan,” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann says.

“The temporary uplift in Commonwealth ASL [average staffing levels] will last as long as necessary over an appropriate transitional period to support programs that help Australians in need and back business recovery.”

The federal public sector has been increasingly forced to rely on contractors, due in large part to government-imposed staffing caps and other shortages.

Recognising this reliance, new reporting rules are being introduced for spending on contracts and consultancies. Additionally, the Department of Finance will establish government-wide procurement panel for consultancy services.

The CPSU says that locking in the existing service level cap reduces the capacity of the public sector to provide important services.

“Even with the slight increase of 325 extra Services Australia staff, there will be 2,339 or 7 per cent less staff in 2020-21 than when the Coalition was elected,” CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said.

“For those hundreds of thousands of Australians directly affected by this crisis, the government’s failure to address public sector capacity means that you will continue to face long call queues when calling Centrelink, more unanswered calls, and longer waits for those small business trying to access support from the ATO.”

There is also new money for national institutions, including $6 million over two years a public exhibition space in the Museum of Australian Democracy, put on by the AEC.

The funds will also go to upgrades at the National Electoral Education Centre (NEEC) in Old Parliament House.

The National Library of Australia will receive $5.4 million, $4.5 million for the National Gallery of Australia, $3.9 million for the National Museum of Australia, $2.5 million for the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia and $1.2 million for the National Portrait Gallery of Australia.

The Budget also includes $31.2 million over four years for capital works, storage and digitisation projects at cultural agencies, and for the National Library’s free online portal, Trove.