The much anticipated, at least by some, efficiency review reported yesterday (http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/newsroom/news_releases/2010/101011-green.aspx). Insubstantial summarises both the feel and the content. It serves to illustrate the sense that the public sector is ripe for a good kicking on the thinnest of evidence. I am not saying there is not waste and inefficiency in the public sector, but we do need to understand what is going on and not simply hurl mud and abuse. And some of the tone of the report is intemperate, to be polite.
As to the content, we have a number of cases that suggest there are variations in the cost of items from one department to the next. The solution? Centralise everything. But we have been here before and, in Liverpool, we are there now in some respects (see https://liverpoolmpa.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/murkyside/) with unfortunate consequences. The diseconomies of scale and the hostage to fortune status acquired with large national contracts is a major problem. Why would we want a central purchasing function for catering? Why would we not allow for contracts, competitively awarded, with local suppliers? Or is the review suggesting that the market doesn’t deliver effective competition?
One consequence that seems to have escaped attention is what bulk central contracts will mean for the market place. Are we now to undermine small businesses as a matter of policy? Certainly, the suggestion that the public sector pay its bills at the last minute and not in a timely fashion suggests that.
Perhaps it is a little easier in the retail sector? Together with intemperate language, it all feels a bit dated, ill-informed and comic – I am sure there is a Yes Minister script in there somewhere? However, it puts me in mind of CJ, Reggie Perrin’s old boss, dispensing his pearls of wisdom. I didn’t get where I am today by wasting money…….