…the Public Sector is awash with debate about whether it is being squeezed too much to continue doing what it does; but this false debate is missing the point.
As more cuts are planned the debate about the impact of these times of austerity on the Public Sector shows no signs of abating. “How can the Public Sector survive if even more resources are taken from it”, “how can it possibly deliver what it is supposed to deliver with less money and more demand” and “how can front-line services be effective without the money to employ the people needed to be on the front-line”.
But these times are an opportunity to move beyond this kind of redundant thinking, thinking that just wants to do the wrong thing righter, to be more efficient at delivering the kind of inconsistent tick-box mediocrity the Public Sector is best known for. We now need the kind of thinking that questions whether or not the Public Sector should even have its finger in many of the pies that it has, and if it should is it actually doing and measuring the right things to make a difference.
The Public Sector talks about the problems it says it is dealing with (you may have noticed these problems never seem to get fixed; health, the economy, the gap between rich and poor, the North South divide etc.) in terms of their complexity, it seems to substitute an absence of progress in exchange for recognition of its efforts. Those of you who have worked in the Private Sector will understand that you are only as good as your results and not your intentions; intentions have never paid the bills in the Private Sector and we all know the old adage about the path to Hell. Unfortunately in the Public Sector good intentions are often the road to promotion; not results.
If this observation seems harsh simply ask yourself if you and your loved ones enjoy the quality of life you have and the expectations and dreams that you have because of a Public Sector bureaucrat of any sort. The reason you have the notion of life expectancy and the dreams of achievement you have is because of the efforts of enterprising people throughout the centuries who have innovated and invented to create new ways of doing things. Enterprising people and the world they have created have propelled the human race from sitting around the Stone Age camp fire to inhabiting the sophisticated homes and communities we now live in. The wheel, the printing press, the steam engine, the motorcar, tarmacadam, suspension bridges, electricity, pharmaceuticals, medical imaging, health equipment, the flushing toilet, anti-bacterial, pencils, paper, pens, refrigeration, the internet, Facebook, jeans, stain resistant carpet, satellite TV, smart-phones, iPhones, phone phones, the printing press, woven cotton, silk, plastics, the aeroplane, double glazing, fine wine, good beer, flat-screens, sofa’s, the light bulb, exercise bikes, cordless drills, hair removal cream, hair replacement cream, the hover mower, air-conditioning, the halogen hob, surround sound, waterproof clothing, the mountain bike, social media, disposable drinks cartons, four wheel drive, ABS braking systems, air-bags, Viagra, the electric guitar, body building shakes, body slimming shakes, wireless computing, cordless keypads, and tablet PCs. These things that you might use for your enjoyment or rely upon, of all of them, not one of them came from the Economic Development team at your local council or from the corridors of Westminster or Whitehall. They exist because of the enterprise and ambition of individuals and the collective efforts of teams of motivated people. The Private Sector has delivered and we are the beneficiaries.
To the best of my knowledge McDonald’s has never had great debates about whether or not its computer systems should talk to each other; they do and they must…that would be a given; Supermarkets have never complained that they could never get really good at what they do because it would be very complicated and probably impossible to get a handle on the vast range of goods they need to stock…NHS computer systems still don’t talk to each other after 65 years. Amazon has relentlessly developed its ability to make money by being able to tell you more about your purchase history in two seconds than Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs could tell you in twelve months (and I know!) about the amount of tax you have paid.
So if these times of austerity represent an opportunity to change the discussion about what the Public Sector does from more for less to better and different for less, then let’s take every opportunity to shape the debate. But if you want me to be grateful for simply getting more of the same from a failing Public Sector for less of my money, then I’ll ask you why you didn’t do it before…and please don’t expect a “Thank You” card.