Again, sorry to be so slow on the blog. A busy period. In the meantime, the political crisis seems to have passed, though Gordon Brown’s leadership is still in doubt and the public perception of Parliament is little improved. These twin dynamics are not improved by rows over military strategy and equipment in Afghanistan or the handling of swine flu.
Beneath these rows, there lies a larger issue. Public service cuts, whatever is said by politicians, are on every agenda in local government, the NHS and beyond. Indeed, it is pretty much the only item on the agenda. The discussions, though, seem to be stuck in the traditional form – of agencies, departments, authorities and so forth addressing the challenges in isolation. Even after ten or more years of joining-up government, the response to the current challenges is not being led by Local Strategic Partnerships or other coordinating bodies. Not unlike some of the debates about a national response to economic crisis, arguing for protectionism rather than globalisation/internationalism, local agencies appear to be even more possesive of their limited resources. But might not some of the answers be in a collective response, sertainly in some of our conurbations and sub-regions? This further failure to join-up is part of a bigger pattern of institutional barriers to delivering public services. Too often, managers see their institution as having almost a life and legitimacy of its own, its needs being paramount. Getting past this parochialism in the current crisis of funding will not be easy – it proved hard to do in times of relative plenty. But developing managers and managerial responses that look beyond simple cuts to think of broader efficiencies must be part of the agenda for the coming period.