I see Oliver Letwin is calling for the cold wind of commercial reality to blow through the world of public service. Apparently, his radical suggestion is that, just like happens in the private sector, if somebody doesn’t do their job properly, they sholud be sacked and not just shuffled around the department until it’s time for them to retire.
Looked at from the outside, this doesn’t seem a particularly radical idea, until you look at the way the public sector, through it’s unions, has tied success governments and therefore the taxpayers in knots over the years. Public sector terms and conditions are based on the age old tradition of, work for peanuts, but get rewarded by a shorter working life and a better pension.
However, the confidence trick that has been played on the taxpayer over the past 20+ years, is that of ever increasing salaries, but without this being balanced by a reduction in their much criticised gold plated terms and conditions. Until that key point is addressed, the whole issue of dragging the public sector in to line with the private sector is going to remain a pipe dream.
By coincidence, I asked a very similar question when the district council was looking at how to reorganisation itself – how do we bring ourselves in the real world, by making our terms and conditions parallel the private sector? Like Oliver Letwin is no doubt already hearing, I was told that it wasn’t that easy. Apparently, the way public sector employment is structured in law, the council could not employ two people doing the same job, on different terms and conditions. If that is the case, then I can see little future for the public sector, as it seems the only way to level this particular playing field would be to scrap the public service sector completely and start again. Ultimately, is that what the Big Society is all about?