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Government's plan B for strikes

Robert Peston | 08:59 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

This is what Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of Next, wrote in the Times last April:

"We need change in the culture of the public sector. We need a culture that will play to the strength of its many capable managers rather than compensate for the weaknesses of the few poor ones.
 
"The first step is to recognise that good management starts with good people; all the 'processes' in the world will not make up for weak individuals. Public sector managers must have the same freedom to rapidly advance talent and correct poor performance that their counterparts in the private sector enjoy.
 
"Yet public sector working practices are geared up to limit initiative and freedom of action. Managers' hands are tied at every turn. The essential activities of recruitment, promotion, reward, disciplinary and dismissal are so hidebound by restrictive practices that good managers find it hard to promote good people and nigh on impossible to remove underperformers."

What I hadn't realised, till I had a conversation with a senior cabinet minister earlier this week, was the extent to which this analysis by Wolfson (who became a Tory peer in July) underpins the government's programme to shrink and reform the public sector.

In particular, this minister told me that when it comes to cutting significant numbers of public sector employees during the coming year, the cabinet is clear that it will take whatever action is needed to retain more able officials and sack what Wolfson calls "weak individuals".

In practice this means that if better staff apply for redundancy, their requests will be turned down, said the minister. "If it means we have to have substantial numbers of compulsory redundancies, that's what we'll do", he said.

This will be a shock to a public sector in which redundancy programmes have been rare in recent years - and compulsory redundancies have been seen as to be avoided, if at all possible.

That's why the government is only hopeful that the shrinkage of the public sector won't lead to widespread industrial action. In practice, ministers are realistic that the threat - and reality - of strikes is highly likely.

So ministers and officials are beavering away working on contingency plans, to maintain security in prisons, keep our borders manned, and prevent the collapse of the tax and welfare systems, for example, in the event that there is serious industrial action.

The point, according to the minister, is that it is impossible for the government to negotiate credibly with unions on public sector changes and cost-cutting, if the unions are confident that strike action would lead to chaos.

But it is by no means easy. The minister wouldn't tell me what he was doing to make sure that prisoners are kept where they should be, if prison staff walk out. All he would say is that it is a priority - albeit a very challenging one - to find a solution.

Of course the programme of revolution in the public sector isn't just about cuts. It is about imbuing a culture of responsibility, of sharing best practice across services, and of improving data collection and analysis (so that public servants actually know what goods and services cost).

Little of this requires legislation. Mostly it is about importing the methods and mindset of the private sector.

To an extent, quite a large one, it will be about transferring a growing number of public-sector operations directly into the private sector - although the big players in this area (the Sercos and Capitas for example) should not under-estimate the government's determination to stimulate much greater competition for contracts to manage all kinds of government services, by making it much easier for smaller younger companies to make credible bids.

That said, a big new wave of outsourcing or other forms of de facto privatisation probably won't happen till after the summer, because a precondition is that the government has to decide how to limit the costs for private-sector companies of taking on the pension rights of officials who are transferred out of the public sector.

What I am less clear about is whether the government's big idea, mutualisation of public services, will become a serious practical reality.

There is no doubt of ministerial enthusiasm for mutualisation, for the sense of personal responsibility and common purpose that shared employee ownership of a public service may deliver.

But whether the formidable practical obstacles can be overcome? Work in progress.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    This article panders to the stereotype of the public sector worker. The real problem is the appalling standard of management as diagnosed in the Knox D'Arcy report (August 2010) which showed that management spent only 3% of their time talking to subordinate staff. Naivety here also in that the main consequence of out sourcing is not to improve efficiency but to reduce the benefits and terms and conditions of staff performing the same service but often less effectively.

  • Comment number 2.

    "But it is by no means easy. The minister wouldn't tell me what he was doing to make sure that prisoners are kept where they should be, if prison staff walk out. All he would say is that it is a priority - albeit a very challenging one - to find a solution"

    Send in the army.....

  • Comment number 3.

    "What I am less clear about is whether the government's big idea"

    Well try the carry on of the Thatcher years of by-passing the unions as a irrelevant idea of the 19th century with no place in the 'modern' business world. To paraphrase.

    As you have pointed out before private business is not taking up the slack in public service because the long term profit stream is not there. The next election will review all and any contacts made now so why invest in plant and staff?
    One more tricky decision to be made, even though all the advisers are giving ideological reasons to change improvements can be made but at what cost? A heavy one I reckon....

  • Comment number 4.

    RP Wrote:
    "In practice this means that if better staff apply for redundancy, their requests will be turned down, said the minister. "If it means we have to have substantial numbers of compulsory redundancies, that's what we'll do", he said."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Robert you've been told absolute rubbish. The recent redundancy offer given to all staff in my department was open to all, the phrase was "Anyone can go." We have just lost four staff that I would describe as "The Cream", two individuals in particlar have left holes we're finding very dififcult to compensate for. I know of NO refusals of applications to take the redundancy offers, itwas totally driven by salary costs savings. We're waiting with baited breath for the next round.

    The civil service is being decimated by indiscrminate cost cutting, no doubt some of the dead wood will leave but there is certainly no selection process, whoever you spoke to is telling you porkies Robert , I would ignore his comments in future. I would add that I work in one of the biggest civil service departments not an obscure corner that nobody would notice if it disappeared.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm sorry but this bloke Wolfson is stating the bleedin obvious and something which most people with more than one O level have always known.

    Would have been much more interesting if he'd commented on the practice of fashion shops to import most of their stuff from overseas and get customers to take out more and more credit and how that contributed to the mess we're in now.

  • Comment number 6.

    What this article highlights is the reason for the chasm of difference between the efficiency of the private sector and that of the public sector.

    In the private sector a company that does not strive for efficiency and productivity inevitably collapses or gets taken over by stronger companies. This process does not happen in the monopolistic public sector. There are good workers in the public sector but sadly the bad ones, protected by unions, rarely get weeded out. And so public sector performance suffers and the tax-payer suffers even more.

  • Comment number 7.

    RP Wrote:
    "Of course the programme of revolution in the public sector isn't just about cuts. It is about imbuing a culture of responsibility, of sharing best practice across services, and of improving data collection and analysis (so that public servants actually know what goods and services cost)."


    This is nothing new Robert, many departments have been undergoing cost evaluations and restructuring for at least seven years now under various guises. My job has been on the line several times since 2004 but I fear this time I won't sruvive, the mood is pretty grim.


    RP Wrote:
    "The point, according to the minister, is that it is impossible for the government to negotiate credibly with unions on public sector changes and cost-cutting, if the unions are confident that strike action would lead to chaos."

    The point here is, if we're going to lose our jobs we're not going to go quietly, what have we got to lose. Please remember the subject matter of two of your previous blogs, bank bonuses, why should we fall on our swords while bankers rake it in on the back of public funding. Bitter, you bet we are, ready for a fight, you bet we are.

  • Comment number 8.

    To an extent, quite a large one, it will be about transferring a growing number of public-sector operations directly into the private sector - although the big players in this area (the Sercos and Capitas for example) should not under-estimate the government's determination to stimulate much greater competition for contracts to manage all kinds of government services, by making it much easier for smaller younger companies to make credible bids.

    Not quite that easy as things stand Robert. For a small company to tender for local council work directly EU legislation insists that the small company already has a turnover of 10m. What actually happens is the larger companys like Serco get the contracts and sub contract part of it to the likes of Mitie who in turn sub contract part of it to ... well me if I am lucky. Of course each step on the way wants to take their 12% for doing sweet little.

  • Comment number 9.

    To be truthful The British are a selfish lot, we all know we need to make cuts in public spending, but please not us. The Coalition seem to have upset every one, Tory, Liberal and Labour. That nice Mr Cameron is not making any friends, but he is brave enough to get the Job done. My only personal criticism of the man is he should have started at the top and closed the unelected house of lords. If the working man has to sacrifice his job, at least those 'old buffers' can sacrifice their ermine.

  • Comment number 10.

    RP Wrote:
    "To an extent, quite a large one, it will be about transferring a growing number of public-sector operations directly into the private sector - although the big players in this area (the Sercos and Capitas for example) should not under-estimate the government's determination to stimulate much greater competition for contracts to manage all kinds of government services, by making it much easier for smaller younger companies to make credible bids"

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    This is another fallacy, most service provision has already been transferred to the private sector by outsourcing contracts for maintenance, cleaning, IT, security, communications, infrastructure, facilities management etc, the rest have been moved to shared services so several departments utilise core services like HR, procurement and finance. For every public sector redundancy I'm seeing two or three private sector job losses due to the current level of outsourcing, there will be no private sector take up up of the slack, they are the slack.

  • Comment number 11.

    #6 sandy winder; don't talk nonsense. The private sector is every bit as inefficient as the public sector: people are promoted to their level of incompetence, shunted sideways into filler roles, and paid according to who they are / what they can con out of the system in a way that would not be contenanced in the public sector.

    Long may it continue.

  • Comment number 12.

    Agree with NorthSea, ...I have seen these sort of programs in the private sector and in my experience the 'cream' are the first to go. They can spot a sinking ship as quick as the next man, their ability means they will probably get another job quickly so thanks for the redundency 'bonus' and their gone. This leaves the less well able, the best of which is quickly promoted into a job he can't handle but after a couple of months even this person is gone on the strength of his new job title.

    I believe there are laws in place that prevent a company from selectively offering redundency.

  • Comment number 13.

    Well in the Communist nirvana we keep hearing about the stupid join the army and the stupid but weak join the council. Fortunately we do not live in this world so the coalition is doing the right thing in cutting out the chaff.

    Many have an idealised view of the public sector which just isn't true (greed is after all a main characteristic of humanity). Look at the doctors who have no motivation to get waiting lists down as they make more money doing overtime. Remember this is public money which would be much better in the pockets of the tax payer. The wasteful NHS makes the bank bailout look like chump change! And I don't even use their deficient service so why should I pay?

  • Comment number 14.

    6. Oh Sandy Winder at no.6, how outdated your views, I think you will find that the private sector is bailed out at the cost of billions to the taxpayer if deemed 'too big to fail' or 'necessary to the economy' and the failures in management are further rewarded by those who failed, with other peoples money of course... this is the new reality... looking at Stephanomics and the rise of commodity prices / supply, I do wonder what will happen if or when the energy companies start to creak....

  • Comment number 15.

    7. At 09:54am on 14th Jan 2011, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    The point here is, if we're going to lose our jobs we're not going to go quietly, what have we got to lose. Please remember the subject matter of two of your previous blogs, bank bonuses, why should we fall on our swords while bankers rake it in on the back of public funding. Bitter, you bet we are, ready for a fight, you bet we are.

    - Why don't you just accept it and go find another job? I've lost jobs in the past, moaning or "fighting" achieves nothing. Just get on with your life. Of course as you work in the public sector "fighting" by which I take it you mean striking will result in larger costs to the state and so they'll have to make more people redundant. I thought you cared about your fellow man? Seriously though, update your CV - remember it's your way to sell yourself. Make it clear what your transferrable skills are. Get yourself presentable, worth investing in a new suit (maybe from Next!) as turning up to an interview smart will put you in the top 20% before you even open your mouth! Make regular eye contact and firm but not too hard handshake. Good luck!

  • Comment number 16.

    This is going to be tricky.

    Firstly it is expensive to make public servants redundant - hence any outsourced work/agency workers will be the first to go. Then you need to get rid of the highly paid obscure posts on 'policy' and 'doctrine' and such like that were created by Labour for their cronies. Even more difficult this, because they have contracts.

    Then you need to clear out the 'sick, lame and lazy', those who are not doing their job thoroughly - everyone knows who they are and their dismissal will not generate much resistance if it is well-targetted.

    Then you can make sure that those who are left receive a sensible pay rise - say RPI minus 1% - after all you want them on your side.

    Unfortunately the RPI figure in February will be at least 6.7% and the Unions are likely to get massive support for a strike over pay. Lord knows what the RPI will rise to when mortgage rates start to rise when the MPC starts to increase the bank rate!

  • Comment number 17.

    • 12. At 10:10am on 14th Jan 2011, Uphios wrote:
    Agree with NorthSea, ...I have seen these sort of programs in the private sector

    - Programmes. Americanisation creep, I mean honestly?

  • Comment number 18.

    If there can be no place for these so-called "weak individuals" in the public sector, then why exactly would the private sector want to hire them? In fact, I would encourage all who are made compulsorily redundant to put that on their CV: sacked for being a "weak individual".

    Then let's see how this fantasy, back of a fag packet economic strategy being pursued by the Tories delivers recovery.

  • Comment number 19.

    It is arrant nonesense to say that public sector managers aren't allowed to manage because of a defacto culture of self interest. The issue is careerism and patronage with many senior members and executives appointed to do the bidding of powerful political cliques - this exists in all parties. The 'culture' of public service has been sacrificed to creating another career structure for middle class wannabees who have created a sheltered reward system for a few and depressed wages and oprtunities for the many - I wonder who they were aping? They also share the same special plea that they desrve bonuses and additional rewards as they reduce the wages and conditions of many of their employees. Again, where does that sound like!!

  • Comment number 20.

    We seem to make a very easy assumption that public sector workers are less efficient than their private sector counterparts. Research reports, like that provided by the PSIRU in 2005, do not bear out our prejudices in this respect. The private sector seeks to make profits as an outcome, and saving time is one of the efficiencies through which it achieves this. The public sector (and Third Sector) seek not to make profits, but to shape services that create a good society. Making money is not the first priority, so efficiency comparisons are difficult anyway. Cost, and value for money are certainly important considerations, but care and a sense of what constitutes and creates the common good come first.

    And don't forget, that as we look up on high to the private sector from our lowly, places of apparent inefficiency, what we see right now at the very top of the private sector are captains of industry whose approach to business has created an awful mess and continues to do so. It's the sort of efficiency we could have all done without. If business thought meaningfully about what really constitutes wealth - those forms of natural, social and even spiritual capital that business tends to deplete in creating profits - we might find ourselves better able to address the problems we currently face as those who are "in it together".

  • Comment number 21.

    Am I living in America?

  • Comment number 22.

    Hear hear.

    My workplace has an informal 10 - 80 - 10 policy: get rid of the bottom 10% each year; give outsized rewards to the top 10%.

    Pay for performance and punishment for failure.

    Result: a productive, cohesive meritocracy.

    First step needs to be to get rid of the legislative market distortions which facilitate collective labour bargaining. If people wish to strike, that is their within their discretion. But it should also be within the discretion of their employer to sack them if they fail to work their contracted hours, and so on.

  • Comment number 23.

    Lindsay from Hendon wrote:

  • Comment number 24.

    Government's plan B for strikes - is the title of Robert's blog.

    For me, post 01, speaks volumes? A reminder of the disaster of out-sourcing cleaning contracts for hospitals.

  • Comment number 25.

    The public sector is riddled with individuals who have the word manager in their job title. I often wonder how many of these people have any sort of management qualification. Schools have senior management teams, business managers and headteachers who are more manager than educator. How many of them have studied management I wonder. The Gov want the GPs to manage the NHS finances. How many GPs have got financial management qualifications?

    We've been lagging behind the rest of the world in management training for years now, and it shows. Management isn't an entitlement, an automatic perk for the long serving and intelligent: it's a science.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Tory slogan of 'Vote for Change' might as well have read 'Vote for a change' for all the difference they've made in the time they've had. If their rate of change continues as slowly as it is with the time that's being spent debating in Cabinet about this or that change their period in power will be up before they've succeeded in changing anything!

    Every successive guvt for decades has gotten bogged-down in 1) Cuts 2) NHS 3) Education 4) Crime 5) Police and all the other routine social issues. But they are ROUTINE issues and the over-riding one which is the furtherance of economic wealth that pays for all these things gets sidelined, like tax revenue falls out of the sky.

    The coalition needs to get their thinking caps on very quickly on this. There are hundreds of initiatives they could use to help and encourage firms (yes, like mine) who make things and export them. You can do this if you are good at what you do and have a good name, it's hardly rocket-science but it does take work and generlaly speaking you get no incentive or help (except 'free advice' - nothing tangible) from Guvt. Unless you're BAE Systems I suppose and employ squillions of people. There's the usual guff about 'creating jobs' (all the supermarket bosses get invited to the party).

    Banks attitude is very much 'recession? What recession?' and hardly surprising considering they make money by lending and the Guvts own particular brand of vampires at HMRC are very much of the same mold - 'not our problem if you're struggling - pay your taxes!' And the rosy tones of the HMRC adverts on commercial radio make it sound as if we're all dripping with cash and can't wait to do exactly that. The reality is very different.

    It's very clear to me at least that the guvt will not achieve much in their term because they are incapable of doing what needs to be done in this crisis. In 4 years time if they survive that long there will simply be lot more poorer people and a slightly bigger nucleus of very, very rich ones and as the months of argument and debate drift by the chance of pulling the country of the hole grows fainter and fainter.

    My two-pennyworth as owner of a firm that exports 80% of gross sales.

    GC

  • Comment number 27.

    One of the tragedies of the Blair/Brown years was that the vast amount of monies poured into the public sector were not used as efficiently. To use an Americanism - "we did not get maximum bang for our buck".

    Labour should agree with the Conservatives and the LibDems that the public sector requires massive reform. Although I suspect there would be large differences in the proposals on the nature and scope of the reform.

    The challenge will be for the Government to dress up the wolf of a cuts agenda (or the necessity of cuts) in the sheep's clothing of reform. But just as with the economic agenda it will not be good enough for Labour (and the Unions) to simply attack what the Government is doing without putting forward positive proposals.

    One other question for Labour to ponder - what percentage of the workforce is a member of a public sector unions compared to what percentage of the total votes at Labour conference (or in votes for the Labour leadership) are controlled by the public sector unions? In the ideal world those two figures should be about the same otherwise there is a risk of over amplifying the voice of the public sector unions and skewing the policy and outlook of the party.




  • Comment number 28.

    15. At 10:28am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon

    Unlike most other bloggers I "get" your sarcastic parodox. I won't bite.

  • Comment number 29.

    Maimonides @25 - I agree with you on the need for more management education.

    I think, however, it is a bit of a stretch to call it a science.

    For me it is more like a collection of technical skills - a bit like training an electrician or a plumber.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.

    Until the mid nineteen nineties, NEXT was one of the more interesting shops in the High Street - original and high quality goods. Now it's just another "me too" purveyor of versions of the same garments available everywhere else, which rapidly lose their looks after three or four washes. So I'm less than enthused by the prospect of its management style being exported into the public sector. One of the features which distinguishes public sector activity from private is that quite a lot of it (fire service, hospitals, police, armed forces) does actually have to deliver its service, rather than merely appear to.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why don't I accept the inevitible, take it and move on?

    Because this is war, war against the parasites that plunged the world into a financial abyss, war against control of populations by corporate greed. A war that must be won otherise I'll be accepting another inevitible in a few years and moving on. The cycle of exploitation of individuals then dumping them onto scrapheaps when the system fails or tires of them must stop.

  • Comment number 33.

    Why not adopt a Whiteheadian leadership style? Getting away from the notions of 'boss' and 'subordinates' frees people up and soon enough the collective ambition of the group will expose the malingerers who can then be dealt with accordingly.

  • Comment number 34.

    The story last week was that the private sector couldn't sack people.

  • Comment number 35.

    Pastor Martin Niemöller blogging kalokagathia at no. 22, I think I might stand up for the trade unions this time, history teaches us they are a necessity... I assume that the 'top 10%' in your company are not there because of nepotism, have been promoted out of departments in which they failed or are sleeping with the CEO? If not then it is a splendid ship in which you sail and I have never seen its like in the dozen or so private companies which I have worked for.

  • Comment number 36.

    13. At 10:15am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon :

    The Private U.S Healthcare system is grossly inefficient and costs the individual much more than the NHS. Most of the money goes on adminstrative costs.

    Can you honestly say that every instance of privatisation has led to an improvement in service and efficieny gains to the public?

    Most of the worlds most efficient rail systems are publicly owned. They are a national asset. Most rail privatisations have led to the collapse of the rail system in their respecctive countries. We need rail.

    As for the continual hire and fire merry-go-round this is inefficiency itself. Employing people and making them redundant is an expensive, time-wasting process. Skills and knowledge are lost and staff are continually retrained at great expense. Most of the private sector companies I have worked for had just as much dead wood as the public sector ones.

    Rhetorically demonising the public sector contributes nothing to the debate but the same old lines regarding to "us and them".

    Your view that greed is the main characteristic of the human race can be supported by a number of instances, but arguments about 'human nature' are bunk. People become greedy if they are continally encouraged to be greedy. Its a choice. The UK is in a mess because of greed. That doesn't mean its an inevitable consequence in all situations. Arguments which hinge on concepts of human nature are usually self-fulfilling and merely encourage the trait which is being essentialised. You could just as easily say that co-operation is an essential aspect of human nature.

    Is there anything positive about the public sector in your view?

  • Comment number 37.

    Government misinformation - reverse the truth - at its best. Robert, I imagine your mole is sitting back this morning, reading your blog, and patting himself on the back for a job well done.

    All the deadwood will stay in post because the private sector will not touch them with a bargepole and all the talent will jump ship early to grab the best the private sector has to offer.

    The public services as a result of all the cuts will get even worse than current projections based on manpower levels alone. This will be due to the majority of the remaining workers in the Civil Service being less able and less efficient and more leaderless than normal.

  • Comment number 38.

    #32 - whoah there big man! There is no war on. There's just individuals and job vacancies. It seems that your current position is no longer needed (for whatever reason, maybe the declining halibut stocks) so you have a choice and either be unemployed (pays fairly well - your rent, council tax and some pin money) or get another job. The latter might require retraining. Look up Train to Gain, very good resource. There are jobs out there and remember you only need one! Your better off looking now before the big rush - look around you, those people aren't your comrades they are competition! Of course it doesn't bother me if you're unemployed, someone had to, but it probably does (or should) bother you so go out there and secure a new position, it might be just the change you need.

  • Comment number 39.

    The Wolfson analysis ignores the fact that employees are attracted by good terms and conditions of service. Companies which have a reputation for providing these have the great advantage of first choice of employees.

    Easy hire and fire is attractive to some managers, especially those who are so incompetent that they do not understand that the carrot is almost always more effective than the stick. It also means that when market conditions turn against a company, it is easier for managers to mortgage the future of a company by large scale redundancies, rather than insuring its future by finding new markets and developing new products.

    The public service has the advantage over private companies, that because of the scale and variety of its operations it can more easily offer its employees good job security. It would be a serious mistake, which could cost taxpayers dear, if this advantage were abandoned.

    The labour market is very difficult for young people at the moment. Their experience will colour their future attitudes and many will regard job security as very important.

  • Comment number 40.

    Also agree with NorthSeaHalibut (#4).

    The company I work for wrote out voluntary redundancies from its cost saving plans specifically because its more talented staff who would have less difficulty finding alternative work that are relatively happy to take a cash sum and prove the point. Those on the other end, who an organisation might quite like to get rid of generally have the least incentive to seek work elsewhere.

    #18 - It depends on how you define a "weak" employee. As a general approach, I'd call a "weak" employee someone who is overpaid for what they achieve - and if you were to bring in someone else, on the same pay, on average you would expect better results from them.

    In principle, that "weak" employee would still be valuable somewhere else, public or private, although probably at a lower salary, as "weak" is a relative term that doesn't have to mean that someone is completely useless.

    There may be a small number of people who are so awful that no-one in their right mind would want to employ them in either sector, but how to deal with that is more of a political discussion than an economic one.

    The coalition's strategy isn't likely to be perfect - I think a healthy scepticism about how much slack the private sector can pick up is justified.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    At 11:19am on 14th Jan 2011, dinosaur wrote:

    Until the mid nineteen nineties, NEXT was one of the more interesting shops in the High Street - original and high quality goods.Now it's just another "me too" purveyor of versions of the same garments available everywhere else, which rapidly lose their looks after three or four washes.

    I'm afraid that's what you get when a handful of capitalists are allowed to export your entire textile industry. An industry which has been a mainstay of the UKs economic life since the middle ages.

    The skills which this industry had built up over such a long period weren't exported with the plant.

    If there's some sort of global breakdown we will all be dressed in rags.

  • Comment number 43.

    In response to point 16:
    "Then you can make sure that those who are left receive a sensible pay rise - say RPI minus 1% - after all you want them on your side."

    That statement highlights one of the main differences between working in the public sector and private industry (and I don't mean banks - there is a lot of people in the private sector that don't earn huge bonuses).
    In the private sector, it is difficult to look more than a few years ahead and anticipate what future working practices will be like. Job security? Inflation index linked pensions? A reasonable pay rise? Wouldn't that be nice.
    I feel public sector workers unions use the bankers bonuses as an excuse for inaction on reform. In my view the public sector was growing far too big BEFORE the financial crisis, and should have been cut back anyway. The fact that we have dramatically falling government revenues has only helped to make reform more urgent. I didn't realise at the time, just before the crisis hit, that Labour's job creation proficiency was due mainly to public sector expansion.
    A bloated public sector prevented the government from paying down a substantial proportion of the national debt in the good times, not bankers. Remember the idea of being in balance over the economic cycle? It never happened. But with a substantial national debt at the time, 'balance' should not have been the goal.
    Some of the coming public sector cuts are necessary anyway. Lets not pretend that the good times in the public sector under Labour were 'reasonable' for the rest of the country.

  • Comment number 44.

    11. At 10:06am on 14th Jan 2011, Tyto alba wrote:
    #6 sandy winder; don't talk nonsense. The private sector is every bit as inefficient as the public sector: people are promoted to their level of incompetence, shunted sideways into filler roles, and paid according to who they are / what they can con out of the system in a way that would not be contenanced in the public sector.

    Long may it continue.

    ==============

    Sandy Winter is right and you are talking nonsense. In my experience, if you are inefficient in the Private Sector you soon get found out.

    I work in the private sector, providing services to the public sector. It isn't easy. First of all you have a to win a job on a competitive tender (often highly competitive) and then it is often a struggle to do a good job and make any kind of profit at all. The problem is that the private sector mindset is to find a solution that works, is good quality and try to do it once and then offer it to your client saying this is what we recommend. The trouble is you run up against public sector managers/clients, who rather than making an informed decision on whether what you are offering is fit for purpose, fall back on box-ticking. It is so frustrating and results in a lot of wasted effort and I have seen perfectly good scheme canned and replaced by inferior ones that 'tick the boxes'. We lose money and the public gets an inferior product and then we hear people in the press saying that private sector contractors are profit-obsessed and offer poor service. Utter Nonsense!

    The contrast with our private sector clients is marked; they will listen to what we recommend and have the gumption to accept it, knowing that they can always sue us if we were wrong.

  • Comment number 45.

    Northseahalibut wrote "The point here is, if we're going to lose our jobs we're not going to go quietly, what have we got to lose. "

    How true. I may be a right winger but you have a right to make life difficult during a redundancy process - people in the private sector often do so why should you act differently.

    However, in the mean time make use of the time to polish the CV etc, it is very tough in the employment market for public sector workers

  • Comment number 46.

    Its all pipe dreams ...

    The only way to cut back on public sector expenditure is to be honest with the population and state clearly which services we can afford on a long term basis . Sure we need our bins collecting , schools etc . But do we need the 101 other services created in the last 10 years.

    The idea we can maintain all services by getting rid of the "Dead wood" is false and misleading..

  • Comment number 47.

    Of course there will be strikes - that's the traditional British response to the challenge of change. Everyone knows the problem is serious, but everyone wants things to remain exactly as they are.

    I just wish that the government would get on with implementing the changes that are needed. They are unavoidable.

    Persuasion wont work in a selfish society.

  • Comment number 48.

    #38. At 11:56am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon wrote:

    "........Look up Train to Gain, very good resource..........."

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Ahem, abolished due to cuts!!

  • Comment number 49.

    Highly-paid sinecures for the old boys club members is a problem affecting both public and private sector managements, and one that the down-trodden employees and taxpayers who financially support them find increasingly hard to stomach.

    However, it's hard to see what Government policy could lessen the impact of a General Strike, which can only be getting more likely.

    The efforts of some newspapers to distract people from this, with misrepresentations about asylum-seekers' Human Rights and so on wear ever more thin.

  • Comment number 50.

    • 32. At 11:21am on 14th Jan 2011, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    Why don't I accept the inevitible, take it and move on?

    Because this is war, war against the parasites that plunged the world into a financial abyss, war against control of populations by corporate greed. A war that must be won otherise I'll be accepting another inevitible in a few years and moving on. The cycle of exploitation of individuals then dumping them onto scrapheaps when the system fails or tires of them must stop.
    ……….
    Finger on the pulse as usual. Yes the economic chaos caused by a debt based monetary system in the hands of capital accumulaters (bankers) is the real cause of the spending cuts, and thankfully a significant proportion of the country realise this. And of course, the sycophants of the wealthy business elite, called our government, cant see that following their example and cutting back will simply deepen the economic collapse, by increasing inequality of income distribution and reducing overall properity (see Ireland and Greece). I have no doubt this will continue until the middle classes incomes are reduced to subsistence levels, and the inevitable revolt as a result
    • 38. At 11:56am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon wrote:
    #32 - whoah there big man! There is no war on. There's just individuals and job vacancies.
    …………..
    That’s right, divide and rule, the tactic used by corrupt sycophantic governments to prevent the masses from revolting again inequality and justice. And just as it has in the past it will ultimately fail to prevent social change.

  • Comment number 51.

    47. At 12:37pm on 14th Jan 2011, thankgodiamwelsh wrote:
    Of course there will be strikes - that's the traditional British response to the challenge of change. Everyone knows the problem is serious, but everyone wants things to remain exactly as they are.

    I just wish that the government would get on with implementing the changes that are needed. They are unavoidable.

    ..............
    No they are not. Monetary reform, and removal of our debt based monetary system would remove the need for the spending cutbacks, and at last we would be in control of the banks rather than them in control of us. Every economic downturn is caused by the failings of the monetary system.

  • Comment number 52.

    1. At 09:34am on 14th Jan 2011, watriler wrote:

    "This article panders to the stereotype of the public sector worker. The real problem is the appalling standard of management as diagnosed in the Knox D'Arcy report (August 2010) which showed that management spent only 3% of their time talking to subordinate staff. Naivety here also in that the main consequence of out sourcing is not to improve efficiency but to reduce the benefits and terms and conditions of staff performing the same service but often less effectively."

    Agree with the main thrust of your post. In the public sector, outsourcing inevitably means cutting the quality of the services provided as well as their costs. The outsourcers invariably employ imported workforce (hence their outcry about recent government immigration policy proposals), often barely legal if not illegal, provide none or minimum training with modicum “clip-board” supervision. This combined with woeful public sector facilities management that should rein such abuses contributes to spread of CRSA in hospitals, dilapidated public buildings and worsening facilities.

    Only the other day I witnessed such imported cleaner tackle, in the most bored and disinterested fashion, about half a mile of corridor at the hospital whilst I was waiting for an appointment. He has done it on one bucket of water and not once he changed it, rinse the mop properly or attempt to clean more sturdy stains. The supervisor (with corresponding badge) who appeared only briefly just seemed to tick some boxes on his clip-board and disappeared without exchanging a single word with the cleaner. Result? The dirt has just been spread across a larger swathe of corridor. Cleaning it certainly wasn’t.

    I have heard of tales like this one many times – at schools, nurseries, hospitals etc. At my work in private sector we also outsource facilities yet it would appear the facilities management is tighter – we are already on the third contractor in as many years and things are rather clean.

  • Comment number 53.

    Having worked in both the public and private sectors, for sure both can be inefficient, but both also have some very good employees and some duffers. What is different is the ludicrous levels of power and credibility afforded to the unions in the private sector. Unions have allowed themselves to remain in Victorian time zones, and need to change or they are letting us all down. Why should taxpayers be hit yet again by strikes imposed by irresponsible and ponderous unions? The world of the public sector needs to change, and much of that change must involve getting rid of the chaff. In the same way that the private sector has had to suffer but has mostly just got on with it. Stop the unions ruining the country (a process started by the banks, let's be fair), and lets bite the bullet and move on!

  • Comment number 54.

    Mr Wolfson is absolutely right. I spent 32 years in the public sector eventually becoming a Band 1 Senior Civil Servant. I can give personal testimony of the extent to which managers were discouraged from using initiative and creativity and forced, against their will and professional judgment, to do things the "official"way. I was lucky for a number of years that my immediate boss was a subversive character who delighted in finding ways round the more lunatic extremes of official policy and our department was a better and more effective operation for it. Unfortunately when he left he was replaced by the archetypal public sector manager who couldn't have had an original thought if his life had depended on it. Any suggested departure from the official line was met with the response "But we might be criticised". The consequences for staff morale and the effectiveness of the organisation do not need to be described. I am no lover of the ConDem government but if public sector managers are going to be expected actually to manage, to think creatively and to take responsibility that can only be a good think

  • Comment number 55.

    Lots of extreme views here about the rights and wrongs of capitalism or socialism. For me, we need to accept that productivity in the public sector has decreased in inverse proportion to it's size. It needs resizing and a change of culture but that doesn't mean it needs disassembling. I generally agree with the direction that the government is going in and we can only judge these things in retrospect - if Tony Blair had done these things then we'd now have a lean and mean public sector, more services, more people employed and less taxation to achieve that. Hold your breath and keep your fingers crossed.

  • Comment number 56.

    A long hard slog ahead but as we vote in the councillors who make the decisions as to who should go then we also have the responsibility to check up on these decisions.

    There will inevitably be the usual political decisions to close care homes and disrupt the public as much as possible to damage other parties but if we see that money saved is being frittered away in other not so important areas then we now have the information and the means to cause a rumpus.

    No good trusting the poiticians when we know we can carry out more positive actions locally ourselves. Who else can hold them to account?

  • Comment number 57.

    @51. At 12:52pm on 14th Jan 2011, Averagejoe wrote:
    "Monetary reform, and removal of our debt based monetary system would remove the need for the spending cutbacks, and at last we would be in control of the banks rather than them in control of us. Every economic downturn is caused by the failings of the monetary system."

    Which leads onto another point: how many of those in government really know how the current system works (or not depending on your point of view)? Are any of them aware of any alternatives?
    Until they have some awareness of exactly how capitalism operates at the moment don't expect any changes soon.

  • Comment number 58.

    When anyone mentions strikes, I always think of Jack Dash the London dockers leader, now there was a man who new how to ruin an industry. Boris Johnson was on TV news this morning, singing the praises of driver less tube trains, No more drivers, no more strikes. Old Bob Crow the militant union leader of some of the under ground workers must love Boris, 'Bonkers Bob' will quote every health and safety law to prevent driver less trains, but even he must see 'the writing on the wall'. Jack destroyed the docks workers living ( with the containers help of course) Bob destroyed the train drivers living ( by the country needing driver less trains) Greed ain't so good when it involves the working man and women.

  • Comment number 59.

    Important stuff, for more reasons than one.

    One reason it is important is that it offers further proof of the claim that these cuts are ideologically, not financially, driven. Our over-lords are willing to go to any length, any cost to push this through. If the cuts were purely due to a need to balance the books then clearly you would choose to take the easiest, cheapest route so long as it resulted in the same cost saving.

    I think it is important to keep repeating this ....

    These cuts that are trashing the recovery of our domestic economy are about IDEOLOGY not economics.

  • Comment number 60.

    • 36. At 11:45am on 14th Jan 2011, i wrote:
    13. At 10:15am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon :

    The Private U.S Healthcare system is grossly inefficient and costs the individual much more than the NHS. Most of the money goes on administrative costs.

    - Classic defence of the NHS. The US system is worse than the NHS so we should keep the NHS. Why not copy the Germans or the French? Their system is far superior. Compulsory insurance except for the really poor. The only argument that remains is the level of really poor unless you like dirty, decrepit hospitals with malignant nurses (although they are replacing the English ones so their attitude is improving!).

    Can you honestly say that every instance of privatisation has led to an improvement in service and efficiency gains to the public?

    - Not every but most. The state should provide defence, law and order (which is property protection first and foremost), fire (used to be privatised but I'd prefer that all of London didn't burn down because an unscrupulous baker on Pudding Lane didn't get his fire insurance), ambulance services, coast guard and mountain rescue (who I believe are currently volunteers which is admiral but their equipment etc. should be state funded), refuse collection, education (but only for the poor similar to healthcare, if something is free, people place no value on it) and healthcare as above.

    Most of the worlds most efficient rail systems are publicly owned. They are a national asset. Most rail privatisations have led to the collapse of the rail system in their respective countries. We need rail.

    - Perhaps but British Rail was awful. Worst thing Hitler did to this country was not heavily bomb our railways! We could have started again like the French (we could even buy their TGV rather than trying to reinvent something) but the costs involved are too great due to the large deficit left by Labour. Do you remember when they put up national insurance and the first thing they did was put nurses' salaries up? Where's the benefit to the country there? They should have invested in rail predominately improving rail links into London from the south east of course (the rest of the country is a canker of want).

    Your view that greed is the main characteristic of the human race can be supported by a number of instances, but arguments about 'human nature' are bunk. People become greedy if they are continually encouraged to be greedy. Its a choice. The UK is in a mess because of greed. That doesn't mean its an inevitable consequence in all situations. Arguments which hinge on concepts of human nature are usually self-fulfilling and merely encourage the trait which is being essentials. You could just as easily say that co-operation is an essential aspect of human nature.

    - Greed, for want of a better word, is good. Get over it or let me continue to climb whilst you have nothing but clinging on to an idealistic and unrealistic concept. We're still in Hobbes' state of nature where life is solitary, brutish, nasty and short!

    Is there anything positive about the public sector in your view?

    - Refuse collection although even that is subcontracted out! If you had to pay for your rubbish to be collected most people would fly tip. Of course we should burn it to create energy, possibly in the north where they are used to industrialisation and could do with the jobs.

  • Comment number 61.

    51. At 12:52pm on 14th Jan 2011, Averagejoe wrote:

    'No they are not. Monetary reform, and removal of our debt based monetary system would remove the need for the spending cutbacks, and at last we would be in control of the banks rather than them in control of us. Every economic downturn is caused by the failings of the monetary system.'

    ===================================================

    I just wonder if a rabid consumer society powered by credit cards could function without debt.

    It would be like the end of a love affair.

  • Comment number 62.

    Robert if this idea is new to you then you have been working at the BBC for far too long.

  • Comment number 63.

    #53. At 12:52pm on 14th Jan 2011, Tom Dundee wrote:

    ".........Why should taxpayers be hit yet again by strikes imposed by irresponsible and ponderous unions?........."
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Sorry Tom, that'sthe whole point.

  • Comment number 64.

    51. At 12:52pm on 14th Jan 2011, Averagejoe wrote:
    Monetary reform, and removal of our debt based monetary system would remove the need for the spending cutbacks, and at last we would be in control of the banks rather than them in control of us. Every economic downturn is caused by the failings of the monetary system.
    ==============================================================

    Correct and will continue to do so as long as this system is in place. The issue here is that the Financial, Political and Media elite are in cahoots with each other and refuse to discuss or are unable to explain the realities of this bankrupting system.
    Not one media commentator has spoken of the fact that the banks have taken over government not the other way around. Social Darwinism by Economic Fascists 2008-2010 and beyond

  • Comment number 65.

    44. At 12:15pm on 14th Jan 2011, Richard wrote:

    I work in the private sector, providing services to the public sector. It isn't easy. First of all you have a to win a job on a competitive tender (often highly competitive) and then it is often a struggle to do a good job and make any kind of profit at all.
    ==============================

    I think many of us are only too aware of the issue of 'private sector' bidding for taxpayer money.

    Hospital cleaning contracts where it didn't mention moving furniture to clean underneath, therefore the contract cleaners would not move the pedal bins in clinical areas (obvious high risk areas for dirt/infection) to clean underneath.

    Hospital and school contracts where major construction firms have been judged guilty of colluding to share out contracts and fix prices. Many of us always wondered why we as individuals could get work done at home for a small fraction of what equivalent work for the government cost.

    Obviously the elephant in the room is PFI. The tax payer got great value from 'private sector' contractors there. (not)

    I think we need to challenge this notion of the efficiency of the so called 'private sector.' It is not in any way guaranteed that they are in factor cheaper and in many instances reduced costs are because of reduced quality

  • Comment number 66.

    The problem with the idea that better staff will be retained and weaker staff got rid of is who decides who is weak and who is strong? The likelihood is that in many caes the people making that decision will themselves be weak and, surprise surprise, look after themselves or just get it wrong. Anyway, better staff will not stay for long if the workforce becomes demotivated by deep cuts and economies and they can get a job elsewhere. Fewer and (on average) weaker staff adds up to a double whammy for poorer service and reduced value for the money we do pay.

  • Comment number 67.

    • 50. At 12:49pm on 14th Jan 2011, Averagejoe wrote:
    I have no doubt this will continue until the middle classes incomes are reduced to subsistence levels, and the inevitable revolt as a result

    - A middle class revolution? I've only seen this once when they ran out of guaccamole in Waitrose!

    • 38. At 11:56am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon wrote:
    That’s right, divide and rule, the tactic used by corrupt sycophantic governments to prevent the masses from revolting again inequality and justice. And just as it has in the past it will ultimately fail to prevent social change.

    - Oh dear, looks like someone believes the Communist ideal and isn't polishing up their CV and intervewing techniques. You will be solely dissapointed. Retrain if you have to or even start your own business or you could sit in the box room typing out disatribe about social change and bringing down corrupt sycophantic governments. The future, is in your hands!


  • Comment number 68.

    I have worked in both a Local Authority and the NHS. In the last 4 years I went through 2 restructures and 1 change of organisation name. I left before the outsourcing started in the local Authority to join the NHS and stepped into the biggest restructure in the NHS ever. The pattern in every case is the same, which is that the good people find other jobs when they get wind of the redundancies, older staff take voluntary retirement, voluntary redundancy is offered to everyone and is taken up, and then any staff that they want to get rid of are offered a menial job "if you like, or otherwise you can resign".

    If someone is not performing well, this should be recognised and they should be sacked for poor performance so that it's open and clear that is why they are going. If they are made redundant that should be because their position, not the person themselves, is no longer required. Using redundancy as a back-door way of sacking someone is expensive, cowardly and non-transparent.

  • Comment number 69.

    Exam Question:
    Why was it was good for Labour to increase the size of the state for ideological reasons but bad for the Tories to reduce the size of the state for the same type of reason?
    Ignore whether you think the state should be increased or reduced.

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm afraid I have to take issue with a one thing here-the notion that redundancies have not been widespread in the public sector in recent years. In the department I worked for , redundancy rumbled over the horizon as long ago as 2002 and was an ever present threat thereafter. Tens of thousands took voluntary redundancy on compulsory terms - agreeing to go but getting paid as if made to go - so perhaps these 'voluntary' headcount reductions didn't count as proper redundancies but I would still suggest that it is something of a myth that, apart from a few areas, such as the NHS and Local Authorities, reductions in the public sector did not start under the previous Government. I would say, though, that the senior cabinet minister's point about trying to retain the best staff by making redundancies based on competency is interesting because it's something that didn't always happen under the last government.

  • Comment number 71.

    "Cuts are necessary and inevitable"

    Don't you realise this is an admission of systemic failure. Under the capitalist model the continuity of linear growth actually allows for incremental growth in public debt. Public debt is rolling (because that's how capitalism facilitates it by bond sale) therefore it is supposed to be sustainable year on year providing there is growth, why do you think all western governments have been accumulating debt for fifty years. We are after all only talking about reducing debt accumulation not reduction or repayment of debt after all aren't we?

    Problems arise when growth is outstripped by debt accumulation and this can arise due to many factors but it is nearly always a financial crisis. Why do financial crisis occur - speculation, and what are they speculating on - GROWTH, the very thing that supposedly makes deficits sustainable. Are we getting it yet, it doesn't work. Now add to this fiat money creation and you have an unstable ingredient, the limitless supply of speculators unit - boooooooooom.

    We are only fed "The deficit has to be reduced" when growth has hit the buffers to shrink the economy, get people on the scrapheap thus making room for more speculative growth. While the lower end of the social scale lose most, if not everything, the upper echelons of society have room to absorb the contraction and "Carry on Regardless" (I wish it was that funny) and then the roller coaster of contradiction starts again.

    Eventually the shrinkage will not be sufficient to accommodate growth and I think we've possibly reached that point, capitalism has faile

  • Comment number 72.

    69. At 13:42pm on 14th Jan 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:
    Exam Question:
    Why was it was good for Labour to increase the size of the state for ideological reasons but bad for the Tories to reduce the size of the state for the same type of reason?
    Ignore whether you think the state should be increased or reduced.

    =================================================

    Admit it! - you lifted this question from a TUC entrance exam paper, didn't you?

  • Comment number 73.

    @ 69. At 13:42pm on 14th Jan 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:

    > Why was it was good for Labour to increase the size of the
    > state for ideological reasons but bad for the Tories to reduce
    > the size of the state for the same type of reason?

    Livelihoods?

  • Comment number 74.

    61. At 13:22pm on 14th Jan 2011, thankgodiamwelsh wrote:
    51. At 12:52pm on 14th Jan 2011, Averagejoe wrote:

    'No they are not. Monetary reform, and removal of our debt based monetary system would remove the need for the spending cutbacks, and at last we would be in control of the banks rather than them in control of us. Every economic downturn is caused by the failings of the monetary system.'

    ===================================================

    I just wonder if a rabid consumer society powered by credit cards could function without debt.

    It would be like the end of a love affair.

    .............
    Debt would still exist, but it would be just a small proportion of the money supply, whereas at present the money supply is smaller than the debt. Which is simply daft, and certainly not sustainable.

  • Comment number 75.

    15. At 10:28am on 14th Jan 2011, Lindsay_from_Hendon wrote:

    > Make regular eye contact and firm but not too hard handshake.

    Believe it or not, Lindsay is actually onto something with this one.

    No, please keep reading. I know Lindsay is a bit OTT, but it's the handshake and the relaxed eye contact that gets you the job. One tip is to think of yourself as a likeable movie-star, say Harrison Ford or George Clooney (if you have the looks to carry it off).

    On the other hand, last week a bloke told me he only hires people who have been in jail twice and been divorced twice. A Master of Science degree is not good enough for him! Go figure…

  • Comment number 76.

    Am intrigued...is NorthSeaHalibut the same writer as Writingsonthewall?

  • Comment number 77.

    At one level about time too.

    It is RIGHT that those paid out of the public purse are accountable for their performance as a police officer, teacher, town planner, finance officer or whatever.

    But, and this is a big but, the danger here is that you change the operational culture of NHS Trusts / Boards, Police Forces, Local Authorities etc, etc but then outsource various functions to private companies who have operational cultures more like, say, banks which mean that they do whatever they can to make money ... which often is not the exact same as good, efficient or effective public service.

    In many respects we've known this for ages. Many of the better performing, 'beacon', public sectors organisations have addressed the failings in their cultures which hinder them performing well. They have reduced or eliminated problems like egotistical, arrogant, bullying bosses because public sector organisations don't exist to prop up senior managers' egos. Or lack of openness, transparancy and accountable which cause reduced trust, allienation and stress amongst staff.

    It's the ones that have directors and managers that have the 'prima donna', can't give you a straight answer, you must obey my every word, 'you're job is to keep me in a job' attitudes that classically perform less well.

    Your best public service are often delivered by those who remember they are paid to deliver service to the public and that the public isn't there to keep them in a job.

  • Comment number 78.

    The timing of this post is very interesting. The BMA annoyed yesterday that they would oppose government pay freezes, which oddly has not been picked up by the BBC. (http://www.bma.org.uk/employmentandcontracts/pay/payfreezebmaresponse.jsp%29. Now while I understand many members of the NHS can't strike, many are politically minded, and certainly the BMA has been championed as one of the most organised unions arounds (albeit not quite as visible as UNISON etc). The government seems to be heading for a big showdowns with doctors, at a time when many of their policies are under intense scrutiny [GP taking control of hospital budgets, scrapping of NICE] and causing genuine concern with the service. It is (reportedly) the fourth largest employee in the world, and yet one of the most efficient whilst delivering excellent healthcare. Taking on the nurses and doctors of the UK does not seem like a smart move.

  • Comment number 79.

    Yes, these bloggers write all the usual tripe about how public sector workers shafting the private sector paymasters.

    Unfortunately it is not all true, sure there will be some wasters in the public sector, that is also true of the many thieves & vagabonds in the private sector. Witness the bulk of the prison population. Initiative in the private sector (some may call it), they just happened to get caught. There are 2 soon to be 3 MPs in prison, maybe there are also a few public sector civil servants also in prison, but there are 80,000 freelance rogues from the private sector also inhabiting our jails.

    My experience of individuals I know who are working or who have worked in the public sector, is that they are dedicated and hard working and do their best under difficult circumstances. All big organisations are not as quick or nimble as small enterprises, however they have different problems to solve.

    Yes they get fantastic pensions compared with the poor buggers in the private sector, but that is to some extent thanks to the pillock GB who wrecked our private sector pensions. This is irrelavent to the big picture debated here.

    The problems really is that the unions are just selfish and are willing to disrupt the lives of the users of the services at the drop of a hat. This is especially true in the monopoly suppliers of services (witness the commuter rail and tube network employees) These jobs along with the other monopoly service employments in government should be subject to a strike free employment contract, or in the event of strike they should lose their jobs. There will be plenty of other workers willing to sign a no - strike contract to replace them. The government just needs to hold its nerve.

  • Comment number 80.

    Here we are again in Tory Britain. Unemployment means cheap labour - employers love unemployment - and employers are represented by the Conservative Party. Having spent ten years in the Public - and now ten in the Private sectors, my experience is that neither is better or worse than the other in terms of inefficiency. Middle managers who can't do anything - minions with overloaded 'in trays', it all looks the same. Except, of course that the state can't get rid of Private sector employees. Personally, i'd rather have minor inefficiencies and keep people in work. Keep the streets clean, elderly and vulnerable people looked after, keep Policemen and Policewomen on the streets. Public Sector Services are what makes the country a decent place in which to live. Councils could start saving money by not being massively overcharged by the Private companies who so often now do the work, to a low standard in many cases 'It's just Council work, but the money's good'
    Telecomms companies make billions per year - yet seem not to pay any Corporation Tax unless they feel like it. Collect that - and the millions owed by Directors and the self employed. Leave the workers alone! When will the Armed Services realise that they are also Public Sector? Perhaps there won't be any soldiers to man the ambulances, fire engines, prisons etc., this time around...

  • Comment number 81.

    Having previously worked as a local government officer in a North West Council I can confirm that it is totally inefficient throughout most departments. There is an almost incestuous relationship between officers and elected members and a 'Parkinson's Law attitude to recruitment and empire building. It is only by 'cutting the legs off' these organisations by reducing the amount of cash from central government that they will be forced to concentrate on improvements iin the full glare of public gaze.

  • Comment number 82.

    I watched with interest last night on the evening news where Mancehster Council stated it was laying off thousands of staff while its Chief Exec managed to muddle by on only a quarter of a million a year.

    If he/she goes then you would save much more money than a few refuse operatives. Surely the answer is simple and it involves doing what lots of private sector businesses have done.

    No job cuts but everyone earning more than GBP 150,000 a year gets a 20% pay cut; everyone above GBP 100,000 a 15% pay cut and everyone over GBP 50,000 a year a 10 percent pay cut. For those earning more than GBP 25,000 a 7.5% pay cut and those less than GBP 25,000 get a 5% pay cut.

    This would help cut costs immediately and ongoing as well.

  • Comment number 83.

    Based on twenty-five years' service with the Federal Government of Canada, all but five of them in management, please let me literally throw myself behind the words of Simon Wolfson:
    - "We need change in the culture of the public sector...
    - many capable managers rather than compensating for the weaknesses of the few poor ones
    - good management starts with good people
    - all the 'processes' in the world will not make up for weak individuals.
    - Public sector managers must have freedom to rapidly advance talent and correct poor performance.
    -Managers' hands are tied at every turn...Good managers find it hard to promote good people and almost impossible to remove underachievers.
    The sacking of weak individuals (in Canada) requires documentation, retraining, more documentation, evaluations: I mean unless the manager can somehow fit in all this paperwork, that "dud" you're trying so hard to get rid of is not going anywhere. Even if the manager goes through all this paperwork (in addition to his/her other duties), oftentimes higher management, looking to avoid an appeal or a grievance from the union, will not back the decision of the lessor manager. I did paperwork; I sacked three people - all for incompetency - but I paperworked nineteen!!
    There is also senority. Given the relative equality between two individuals (according to evaluation and work performance), the one with greatert senority gets retained, even if the lessor fellow is younger and has far more potential for advancement.
    So I sympathise with ministers and officials working on contingency plans, to maintain security in prisons, keep our borders manned, etc. Strike action is always a threat. In my days, I twice found myself as manager trying to cover all positions while my employees walked the picket line - not very efficient or effective, and utterly exhausting.
    If the UK is anything like Canada, I disagree that legislation is not required. You cannot import the methods and mindset of the private sector into Governments that run on different legislation, rules and regulations - usually issued by Treasury Board. In fact, it's far easier to turn sections of the Government over to private contract, and this you can be sure will lead to work-to-rule and/or strike action.
    Even then, there are pragmatic issues - like pension transference.
    I believe the very first step to reducing the size of the Federal Government must be negotiation with and changes to the Public Service Act, or equivalant, and even that will take time - years.

  • Comment number 84.

    What I don't understand is why government and unions don't realise that there are millions unemployed in the uk who could just as easily do the jobs for less. The shrinkage of the public sector is long overdue. Apart from rubbish collection, law & order, emergency services and a suitable army, every other service should be up for review. We as a country are deep in debt and need to get our house in order. It's no good blaming the bankers, they didn't cause this mess - but they did make it worse. The last government was overspending for the previous 10 years, mainly on extra services which we can go without, and cannot afford. They will tell you that they spent the money on schools, hospitals, doctors and nurses - but they spent too much! We now have too pay for the spending splurge of the last government. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all wasted, some of the spending was for good causes, but we couldn't afford it then, and now we have to pay for it. Instead of spending with our means, we spent too much too quickly.
    This is why they say "the road to hell is paved with good intentions!"

  • Comment number 85.

    What was the difference between Greece and Ireland?
    10 Months?
    What is the difference between Ireland and Portugal?
    6 months perhaps.
    What is the difference between Argentina and the US?
    What is the difference between Tunisia and the UK?

    Hmmmmm.

  • Comment number 86.

    "Public sector managers must have the same freedom to rapidly advance talent and correct poor performance that their counterparts in the private sector enjoy. "

    Like the banks? - they promoted all their 'talent' and look what happened!

  • Comment number 87.

    10. At 10:04am on 14th Jan 2011, NorthSeaHalibut wrote:
    This is another fallacy, most service provision has already been transferred to the private sector by outsourcing contracts for maintenance, cleaning, IT, security, communications, infrastructure, facilities management etc, the rest have been moved to shared services so several departments utilise core services like HR, procurement and finance. For every public sector redundancy I'm seeing two or three private sector job losses due to the current level of outsourcing, there will be no private sector take up up of the slack, they are the slack.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------And would these outsourcing companies have directors and senior management receiving bonuses, every year, by any chance?

  • Comment number 88.

    For those that keep on complaining about the Conservatives having an "IDEOLOGY not economics, may I quote the Oxford Dictionary definition of ideology which states "the system of ideas at the basis of an economic or political theory" So what is wrong with having an Ideology the whole Labour Party and trade unions are based on a Marxist ideology. I just happen to support the Conservative Ideology not the Labour one.

  • Comment number 89.

    Drawing a comparison of the public and private sector is always difficult and the results you get depend on the methodology that is applied. The public sector is well audited, the private sector is not (confidentiality). The private sector has to make a profit, the public sector does not.
    Lets take an example, there is some evidence that public sector workers get better pensions than private sector workers, assuming we exclude the massive ones business executives do. Then surely that’s better for society as costs are less. But is it? Retired private sector pensioners will have a smaller pension, and therefore less purchasing power than those from the public sector. The pensioners are consumers and form an ever increasing proportion of the population. Poorer pensioners will spend less and that will not stimulate the economy. They may also require income support to make up for the shortfall in their standard of living, which will be a cost to the state, however, it will not be a cost to the firm so therefore the firm looks more “efficient”, but the costs to society may be just the same. It all depends on how you look at the costs, at what level, and what you include or exclude. Using statistics you could demonstrate that the public sector costs less to society or more, depending on the methodology and assumptions applied.
    The key issue for me is how do we get ourselves out of the mess we are in. The government’s debt is small potatoes to the private debt in the economy. Servicing this debt, means less purchasing power for the public. Increasing inflation is also reducing the purchasing power of the public. All this means that economic recovery, which requires people to spend is simply not going to happen. Public sector cutbacks means more people unemployed, and further reductions in peoples incomes and therefore no economic recovery. It also means that tax receipts will drop further compounding the governments problems. So it’s a no win situation. How do we fix this? The key is to reduce the debt, and put more money into peoples pockets so they can spend again. As I see it the only way this can be achieved is monetary reform (so the state takes responsibility for issuing the money supply debt free) or heavy increases in tax for those that can most afford it, ie the rich. The same crisis effected Germany in the 1930s, and Hilter turned the country around in 4 years by issuing state money. The banks may not like giving up their power but in my view, tough, they had their chance and they blew it.

  • Comment number 90.

    76. At 14:11pm on 14th Jan 2011, suspicious wrote:

    "Am intrigued...is NorthSeaHalibut the same writer as Writingsonthewall?"
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    No, but thanks for the compliment, unintentional or not.

    WOTW is an Anti-capitalist whereas I'm just one of those sad old Marxist ideologists you all love to hate.

  • Comment number 91.

    "What I hadn't realised, till I had a conversation with a senior cabinet minister earlier this week, was the extent to which this analysis by Wolfson (who became a Tory peer in July) underpins the government's programme to shrink and reform the public sector."

    Robert, what planet do you live on? - The Tories always try to shrink the public sector...and although the public goes along with at first, they soon realise that some services simply won't be provided, or will be become unobtainable for the majority - at which point we have a good old dust up and kick the Tories out.....reverting to Labour who then promise us better services, but usually end up bankrupting us in the process.

    Fortunately the Tories never get too far, otherwise when we have the next crisis - we don't just lose our private banks and building societies - but we lose our (now privatised) hospitals and schools too.

    "In particular, this minister told me that when it comes to cutting significant numbers of public sector employees during the coming year, the cabinet is clear that it will take whatever action is needed to retain more able officials and sack what Wolfson calls "weak individuals"."

    Bring this Wolfson to me - we shall see who is the weak individual.....

    Never mind - I hear Boris has the solution - apparently he managed to rile all the tube drivers by claiming they can all be replaced by automation and a 2 week introductory training (I was only joking about the same thing yesterday!)

    http://www.tntmagazine.com/tnt-today/archive/2011/01/14/london-tube-strike-this-weekend-expect-more-travel-disruption.aspx

    ...and here is the biased view on the matter - from arch anti-public transport Czar Andrew Gilliigan no less.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100071955/boris-johnson-threatens-to-get-rid-of-striking-tube-drivers/

    Way to go gentlemen - now can someone please tell me how the passengers would have got out of the tunnels when the bombs went off on the tube? - Would the automated system guide them out? - or would we expect a '2 week trainee button pusher' to be able to cope with such a situation?

    I welcome the attack on the unions - it's going to move things along a bit quicker.

    Can't hang around today - apparently there is a protest outside RBS from angry taxpayers wanting their money back - I'm just going to check out the window to see if they have pitchforks yet. I might join them once I'm finished here - that shoudl confuse the sheeple and the media as I have a pink shirt on today and I was planning to borrow a pair of red braces from someone so I look the part.

    We don't want the public thinking all these protestors are anarchists and unwashed students now do we? - I mean that would be deceptive...

  • Comment number 92.

    So, a young man who has taken over Daddy's firm and only worked for one company is an expert on the public sector. Having spent a lifetime in public, private and mutual sectors I would say that it is naive to make generalisations about the quality of management. Training is essential for good management. However, a lot of organisations promote on the basis of achievement in non management roles.

  • Comment number 93.

    84. At 14:32pm on 14th Jan 2011, Qasim wrote:
    What I don't understand is why government and unions don't realise that there are millions unemployed in the uk who could just as easily do the jobs for less. The shrinkage of the public sector is long overdue. Apart from rubbish collection, law & order, emergency services and a suitable army, every other service should be up for review. We as a country are deep in debt and need to get our house in order. It's no good blaming the bankers, they didn't cause this mess - but they did make it worse. The last government was overspending for the previous 10 years, mainly on extra services which we can go without, and cannot afford.
    ...................
    Nonsense, dont believe the rhetoric. The cause of this crisis is the debt based monetary system and the banks which are the vehicle through which it is implemented. And it was the same cause in every previous downturn.

  • Comment number 94.

    84. At 14:32pm on 14th Jan 2011, Qasim wrote:

    "What I don't understand is why government and unions don't realise that there are millions unemployed in the uk who could just as easily do the jobs for less."

    Can you drive a tube train? - no I didn't think so. Do you know how much it would cost to train you before you were safe to drive it? - well about a years wages for a tube driver (£30,000) - so in this fantasy world where anyone can do the job for less - are you prepared to work the first year for free?

    Your views on employment are archaic and belong to victorian times. Hopefully we shall finally get to prove this claim one way or another - I mean most people haven't experienced a General strike in the UK (well anyone under about 50?) and it will be interesting to see how many people turn up to volunteer to replace the striking workforce.

    The tanker drivers are being balloted for strike action - shall we drag some unlicensed unemployed people and stick them in their tankers?

    Just let me know when that's happening - as I'd rather not be driving about when it happens.

  • Comment number 95.

    85. At 14:36pm on 14th Jan 2011, prudeboy wrote:

    "What is the difference between Argentina and the US?"

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLDE70C0AO20110113

    Questioning the credit worthyness of the US - whatever next eh?

  • Comment number 96.

    75. At 14:09pm on 14th Jan 2011, Jacques Cartier wrote:
    On the other hand, last week a bloke told me he only hires people who have been in jail twice and been divorced twice. A Master of Science degree is not good enough for him! Go figure…
    =================
    Was that at an investment bank?


  • Comment number 97.

    76. At 14:11pm on 14th Jan 2011, suspicious wrote:

    "Am intrigued...is NorthSeaHalibut the same writer as Writingsonthewall?"

    I'm suspicious - you only created your ID today and you already have noticed similarities between bloggers?

    Is that you darksurfer? - can you no longer show your face?

    Strange as it might seem - but some people do share the same views - in fact, there are rather a lot of us who share the same views. Only PR stooges and "capitalists without arguments" resort to creating multiple ID's....

  • Comment number 98.

    75. At 14:09pm on 14th Jan 2011, Jacques Cartier wrote:

    "On the other hand, last week a bloke told me he only hires people who have been in jail twice and been divorced twice."

    Was the job something to do with Parliament?

  • Comment number 99.

    2. At 09:38am on 14th Jan 2011, The Lowest Of The Low wrote:

    "Send in the army....."

    ...what the one currently on the other side of the world? - I think they're a bit busy fella.
    The increase in prison riots may have something to do with the fact that the UK is one of the world leaders for locking up people in their overcrowded prisons (despite what the Daily Mail says) - and some might say this sort of event will occur more frequently as a result of cuts in staff and increased incarceration. I mean surely it’s not another one of those ‘coincidences’ that the last noteable prison riot we had was the last time we were in recession?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_riot

  • Comment number 100.

    I do believe the Lord W has some good points to make. But I always find it a bit rich that someone like him who lives in a glass house can lob stones without acknowledging the gross failings of the private sector in rewarding failed CEOs and other senior managers with golden goodbyes and then seeking to justify the arrangements as being good business. Put your own house in order first Lord W then you may just have some credibility.

 

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