Friday, 21 August 2015

The Fat Public Sector by Ben Shenton

One of the things which seems to be lacking in the States is an organisation chart, giving the relationship of different posts to each other, and a brief description of what each post is for. The States websites provide a "top level" summary, but it is barely a sketch, and certainly not fit for purpose.

And yet - unless we have a breakdown, how can the States see where it is management heavy? How can they see how matters can be streamlined?

The last organisation chart - a very comprehensive and detailed one - was done by former Senator Sarah Ferguson, after she was told that there was not one for the hospital, but she could go in, get data, and do one herself. I think that's pretty atrocious. The States should have their own charts, and keep them up to date.

We hear a lot about "lean" in the States; it is the latest management buzz word. There is no evidence coming from the States that "lean" has produced savings. We are told it is marvellous, but what I'd like to see is not "improvements" detailed in copious project reports, but the bottom line -- claimed savings adding up to a sizeable fraction of total costs.

According to the Mind Tools website, "The Lean approach is based on finding efficiencies and removing wasteful steps that don't add value to the end product. There's no need to reduce quality.. – the cuts are a result of finding better, more efficient ways of accomplishing the same tasks."

Is there a paper trail which documents these efficiences and the removal of wasteful steps so we can actually see improvements made rather than just hearing that they have been?

There's a saying about movies - don't tell, show. It would be nice if the States did a bit more showing, a little less telling.

And in particular, can we have details of what middle management posts there are, and what they actually do, and why they are necessary. There seems to be a lot of pyramid style Empire building. We know what teachers and nurses do. But what do all the fancy named post holders above them do?

I remember Dick Green, who was a nice chap, but in charge of a quango at Education which produced lots of paper, but nothing very concrete. He could not escape the mindset of the pyramid; for him, that was how organisations should be built.

Ian Gorst has said in a number of speeches and replies to questions that States management organisation is stuck in the early 20th century (or perhaps the 19th). Ben Shenton's analysis suggests that not much has changed to improve matters.

Here's Ben Shenton in the JEP, sharply identifying a new management position in Education, and asking what precisely is going on:

Ben Shenton on Public Sector Management

Just how committed are the very well paid management teams in the public sector in achieving the political ambition of cutting costs while maintaining or improving front-line services?

I doubt that any taxpayer begrudges the salaries of dedicated nurses, inspirational teachers or diligent policeman. What they do begrudge is a fat public sector with too many pen-pushers and too many layers of government. Let’s look at the current government vacancies on the States of Jersey website and examine if the notion of running efficient departments while saving money is sinking in.

I’ve picked the role of ‘professional partner to schools’ as the vacancy to review. This is a brand new position with a salary of up to £78,943 per annum; if you add in social security and pension contributions, the taxpayer cost will be in the region of £100,000. It is a permanent role and the five-year residency requirement has been dropped, as seems commonplace in the public sector, so anyone can apply.

The job summary states: ‘Jersey is seeking to recruit an exceptional professional to join our growing school development and evaluation team.’

The use of the word ‘growing’ hardly instils confidence that those in charge at Education have grasped the concept of keeping costs under control.

This is not a cheap role and is not a front-line appointment. The post holder will be a member of the school development and evaluation team and will report to the head of school development and evaluation, who already costs the taxpayers well over £100,000 per annum. The job seems to entail visiting schools ‘to make judgments about effective strategies for school improvement’. Obviously the head teachers and the very well paid head of school development and evaluation are incapable of undertaking this role.

This appointment is not surprising when you see the organisational structure at Education accompanying the job description. For example, the early years administrator reports to the five members of the early years advisory team, who report to the teaching and early years learning adviser, who reports to the head of early years, who reports to the assistant director standards and achievement, who reports to the director for education, sport and culture, who reports to the minister. Not one student-facing person among all these roles; not one member of front-line services.

If the unions want to look after their members, they must stop their ridiculous 1970s strike rhetoric and help to mould a lean and efficient public sector. At the moment it looks like they wish to inflict higher taxes on most of their members to protect fat public-sector management. They need to realise that the public-sector managers use them to protect their own cosy positions. This has to stop.

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