Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Efficiency, Efficiency, Efficiency

It seems that the new political buzzword is efficiency. Each political party is trying like mad to outdo the other in the scale of the efficiencies they will introduce to the public sector, without cutting front line services.

Laudable as that may be in these cash-strapped times, these promises need to come with a warning. That warning is: This is the road to the ruination of the country.

I don't say that lightly, because I know better than most the country HAS to economise, be leaner be more efficient and cost less. But its the WAY in which government will bring about those supposed economies and efficiencies that worries me.

After the financial fiasco that was the Callaghan government of the 1970's the Conservative Thatcher government quite rightly set about saving money by reining in public spending and selling off unprofitable nationalised companies. However, rather than a culture of efficiency, in the process they created a culture of "lowest common denominator", whereby front-line services were cut to the absolute minimum bearable, but at the same time failing to increase efficiency elsewhere in government.

Then came the boom times of the Labour government where large injections of public money were made into the public sector. Again, instead of being more efficient, the public sector became more inefficient, only showing a marginal improvement in front-line services for the vast amoutounts of money being pumped in at the top. A classic example of this is the wage inflation of senior jobs in the public sector, which soaked up a large proportion of the money pumped in, for no gain in front-line service.

Now we're in a big hole and everyone is talking about cuts. But those cuts can't be blanket cuts: I've talked before of the need for surgical precision, liposuction for the public sector, where the fat is sucked out without crippling the patient and whats left is leaner but not only that, but the public sector needs to go farther and be put on a fitness regime, to tone up those weak muscles, so as to be able to do things with less effort.

What I fear will happen is that we will get blanket directives to cut X amount out of the budget, those in charge of the public sector will justify their six-figure salaries but cutting front-line staff, which will put the public in a foul mood and put the government off further cuts.

The New Government that comes in next year HAS to micromanage the whole thing: there is no option but to really get to grips and take on the public sector in close-quarters combat. They have to understand that, have to prepare for that and have the fighting spirit necessary to do what is right for our country, otherwise it is doomed to fail.

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