Monday, November 10, 2008

One Way Traffic

This week I learned that a another former employee of mine is off to work in the public sector. Very talented person, big job, good luck to her. She is not the first. In all I reckon I have lost about ten in the last two or so years to public sector jobs. In the opposite direction about two.

No-one can blame the staff. In the public sector they get good money, job-security and a gold-plated pension, often for doing work not a million miles away from what they did for us.

However, what this does indicate, for me, is that the public sector is probably doing too much in relation to the third sector. Most of the people I have lost are doing roles which could be delivered far more effectively and economically in the third sector. Tenant participation. Youth action. Customer complaints.

But no, they have ended up `in house'. Not because they should be there but because councils are permitted to grow their own workforces without recourse to competitive tender. So no matter how costly or poor the service is, there is no mechanism for its replacement, as is the case if, say, one of my services doesn't make the cut.

My feeling, after watching councils-in-action for 15 years now is that they can't really be trusted to do the right thing. With a few very notable exceptions, they are generally poorly led, both at political and officer level, and do not have any real concept of how to work with other sectors, private or voluntary.

Indeed one of the councils I have watched at close quarters has shown, at times, a sectionalism towards its own provider interests which, if this were a particular southern European country, may attract a much ruder label.

This has to be stopped. How and by whom I don't know. One of Thatcher's brightest ideas was, upon Community Care coming into being, to guarantee 80% of social care going to other sectors.

In one act, this prevented the nationalisation of social care, a move which would have been as disastrous as it would have been inevitable had the NHS and LAs been left to do what they wanted. Thanks to her, we now have a thriving, diverse and pretty efficient social care sector. I don't often praise Maggie but she knew vested interests when she saw them.

Something similar is needed now. Because I want my youth workers back.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some of us return to the public sector because we believe it's the place that change needs to be affected the most, not for the pension - actually your organisation pays a better pension, and you employ people with higher principles than that.