Archive for December, 2010

Will the last person to leave…

Nowhere are we really hearing what is going on in public service workplaces at the moment.  Job losses are talked of in large numbers – thousands and tens of thousands.  But each number is an individual and sometimes it is important to remember those individuals.  And maybe sometimes it is important to treat them as such?

The stories I hear from colleagues and others include:

  • a new organisation chart presented to a meeting of administrative staff in an organisation.  If your post/name was not on the screen, you needed to start looking elsewhere.
  • officers rushing to complete the paperwork for early severance so that staff can be gone by Christmas.
  • staff of many years service being informed that their application for early retirement had been accepted with immediate effect.  Go for lunch and don’t bother coming back.
  • arriving at work to find staff have left without any notice or opportunity to say farewell, thanks, good luck.

But this is ok.  These were bureaucrats, a burden on our society, one of many.  Let’s forget these details and look at the bigger macroeconomic picture.  They are within the margin of error, after all.

On behalf of those who do care, perhaps I might just say “thanks and good luck”.

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Local government finance – cold turkey and stuffing included

Most organisations send around a seasonal message to staff – “well done, thanks and enjoy the holiday” sort of thing.  Yesterday’s announcements of the localism bill combined with the financial settlement for local government is an unusual take on the festive missive.  And in the North West, it looks particularly grim.

But the message is a very muddled one.  Pickles has created a new way of presenting the numbers – change in ‘revenue spending power’.  The results, as presented, then show authorities losing no more than 8.9% next year.  (Why 8.9%?)  So it appears to be not as bad as some of the worst fears of recent months – the same old smoke and mirrors we saw from the Chancellor a few weeks back.

But the reduction of specific grants connected to deprivation and other indicators of need (Labour’s preferred mechanism for allocating resources) together with a general drop in the spending assessment formula is at the heart of the calculation.  For Liverpool, that looks more like a 17% cut in the next financial year.  And the impact is similar across Merseyside.  Weaning local government off these area based grants would have been a long term process.  Cold turkey seems the coalition government’s preferred approach.

Meanwhile, in the parliamentary debate on the finance settlement, Pickles has praised Liverpool city for reducing the costs of senior management.  At first, this cull seemed an unplanned (random?) act of decapitation.  Now it is held up as an example of visionary management?  Ruling a city by fear is not something I would commend as good practice to others.

And while all this is going on, news emerges that a report on the audit of the LDL contract (see my earlier posts on Murkyside) has been delayed and a scrutiny committee meeting cancelled.  Why?  Because all those senior officers involved in the investigation of the LDL contract have left the council.  Visionary?  Get stuffed!