Public Sector Catch 22: Structural Reform, Strategy and Implementation – How to avoid a Omnishambles Recovery Programme? (Part 4 of 4)

A. INTRODUCTION

With the Coalition Government‘s Reform Agenda being attacked on multiple fronts, for example, Defence and Health, plus the targets set in the Spending Review looking more and more at risk, this week the blog focuses on “How to avoid a Omnishambles Recovery Programme?

This is my sixth blog which looks at the critical choices being faced in the Public Sector both at the National and Local level.

The first two articles were: UK Local Authorities and Shared Services: Cost-Cutting – Myth or Reality?, and Public Sector Performance: Catch 22 type Dilemmas.

This is now the fourth of four related blogs:

1. Cost Cutting Vs. Cost Reduction (Blog 1)
2. Business Transformation (Blog 2)
3. The Role of IT in Business Transformation (Blog 3)
4. Structural Reform, Strategy and Delivery (Blog 4)– focus of this blog

Before focusing specifically on Structural Reform, Strategy & Implementation, it is worth taking a look at this week’s major news on progress in overhauling public services. The biggest story has been the Government back-tracking on NHS reform, taking some extra time for consultation and the publication of the Health Select Committee report. The Government has published Structural Reform Progress updates for the whole of Whitehall. As of March, the Cabinet Office was late on three reform milestones and the Department of Business Information and Skills four. For this blog, the most significant was the delay of the new model for Central Government Shared Services by the Cabinet Office but they are now promising a pan-Government strategy by April – it will be interesting to see whether this is restricted to Central Government or also includes Local Authorities.

This week Lord Adonis of the Institute for Government challenged  “No, prime minister, the civil service is not your nemesis“, with a wide-ranging attack highlighting the risk of achieving the cost savings. In another broadside, Benedict Brogan, the Deputy Editor of the Daily Telegraph, referred to two Permanent Secretaries comparing notes and citing “The return of the omnishambles”. We now have the Return of both “Catch 22” and the “Omnishambles”. Another five examples and I fear I shall be drawn to the headline “Return of the Magnificent Seven”!

This week, I try to link three separate challenges facing the Government and the Public Sector, focusing on both Public Sector and Private Sector Best Practice:

  • Structural Reform
  • Strategy
  • Implementation

These are very much personal views and are still being formulated. I would very much welcome your challenge and improvement. Please publish your comments below this blog.

B. PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM

Public Service Reform is not new and has challenged politicians, with leanings to both left and right, for the last forty years. Flynn provides a very readable introduction to Public Sector Reform. Neoliberalism provides the underlying theory supporting Public Services Reform, which describes a market-driven approach to economic and social policy based on neo-classical theories of economics. Wikopedia provides another comprehensive introduction to neoliberalism and for a more intellectual and comprehensive challenge to neoliberalism see Harvey. Critically, the Coalition Government has been described as neoliberal by Kovar. This introduction is important because it fundamentally underpins the Coalition Government’s policy on reforming public services.

The HM Treasury Spending Review announcement stated  “The Spending Review set a clear direction for reform, focused on shifting power away from central government to local level”. One of the major reforms announced in the Spending Review includes the following:

“Decisive action to cut the cost of central government, with a 34 per cent cut in administration budgets across the whole of Whitehall and its arm’s-length bodies, saving £5.9 billion a year by 2014-15”.

In addition to the monthly Structural Reform Progress Reports cited above, the Government’s No.10 web site provides details of all departments’ Business Plans supporting Structural Reform. The reader is recommended to take a look at some of the plans, e.g. the Cabinet Office and get a feel for robustness, independent risk assessment, bottom-up costing, and overall financial integrity to achieve saving £5.9 billion a year by 2014-15.

The Office of Fair Trading identified three key issues which are critical to making reform of public services successful:

  1. The importance of ensuring an open supply side in which restrictions on entry and exit from the market are minimised
  2. The key role active consumer choice plays in driving efficiency and innovation through competition, and
  3. The importance of ensuring a level playing field for providers.

C. STRATEGY

In the Private Sector, of course, there is no Reform agenda. Most large businesses have a Corporate Strategy which Johnson & Scholes define as follows:

“Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations.”

Key question to be answered by the Corporate Strategy are:

  1. Where am I going long-term?
  2. In which markets, products and services should I compete?
  3. How can I perform more effectively than my competitors?
  4. What resources do I need to compete effectively in terms of people, technology and assets?
  5. Do powerful stakeholder groups support my proposed strategy?

Another important distinction is between the overall Corporate Strategy and the Business Unit Strategy etc. – this would be equivalent to Central Government Departments, Local Authorities, NDPB’s etc.

Most large private sector organizations have a Strategic Planning Process which entails three elements:

  1. Strategic Analysis
  2. Strategic Choice
  3. Strategy Implementation

Strategy implementation requires three critical ingredients:

  1. Vision
  2. Leadership
  3. Skilled Resources

I do not believe that the Public Sector typically has a comparable Corporate Strategy process. Key steps in the Public Sector seem to be:

  1. Political Manifesto
  2. Reform Agenda
  3. White Paper
  4. Leglislation
  5. Programme of Work

Peter Gershon commented that in order to get anything done in the Public Sector, there are two critical ingredients:

  1. Political sponsor at Ministerial Level
  2. Formal programme, with effective governance

It is interesting that the Civil Service has traditionally differentiated between Business as Usual/Continuing Activities and Programmes. This has tended to reinforce the “status quo”, providing inertia which is a natural barrier to change. For years, the fast-track route in the Civil Service was policy rather than delivery.

To summarize, the Public Sector does not appear to have the same Private Sector Best Practice Strategic Management which focuses on:

  1. Strategy
  2. Vision
  3. Leadership
  4. Skilled Resources to deliver the strategy without unacceptable risk levels

The Public Sector also has both Politicians and Administrators. I highlighted in an earlier blog the potential dysfunctional consequences of politicians “meddling“. Let me restate the point:

The main “Catch 22” dilemma is that the Public Sector performance will never match the Private Sector, until the politicians stop meddling! Outsourcing large elements of the Public Sector needs to be considered objectively. A coordinated approach is required to strategy, including more decisive executive leadership, customer-focused, able to grasp and operationalize concepts of simplification and innovation in organization, processes and services (products) – as well as dealing with their political masters.

Let me try to illustrate the argument. In my blog on Shared Services, I recognised that Private Sector organizations typically targeted 40% Cost Reduction before considering the potential Labour Cost Arbitrage advantage of off-shoring (where labour costs are lower). I noted that Local Authority opinion was converging on 20% being an appropriate target. I argued that if all the risks materialized then the 20% cost reduction in the business case would be wiped out. I was challenged by John Gelmini , a colleague, that 40% cost reduction was realistic in the Public Sector and highlighted a number of strategic options. For convenience, I have reproduced his argument in Appendix 1.

Whether we agree with John’s data, analysis and conclusions, is not fundamental for this blog. The point is that there would appear to be strategic opportunities that have not been identified by the Government and the Public Sector. All savings from strategic initiatives will offset comparable cuts to front-line services.

This week’s example of the National Health Service Reforms highlighted the need to engage with all stakeholders and have a common strategic view.

Many would argue that the strategic changes proposed by John should form part of a political manifesto, so there would be proper public debate and political choice. Perhaps, it would in normal circumstances take two political terms, one for flushing out the strategic options and the second for implementation? The Coalition Government argue that the urgent case for cuts is because of the huge level of debt inherited from the Labour Government. Unfortunately, both “Catch 22” and the “omnishambles” are gaining ground, whilst many of the best brains in the Public Sector are considering career options in the Private Sector. At some stage, hopefully soon, the Coalition Government will conduct an independent risk assessment and see that the cuts identified in the Spending Review will not be realized in the time scale (consideration of the political options available to the Coalition Government is beyond the scope of this blog).

D. IMPLEMENTATION

Unlike the Public Sector, the Private Sector has a very long history of strategy implementation. Scholars have long been interested in the critical ingredients of successful strategy implementation, and there is a rich literature of both theory and empirical research underpinning the subject. It is very important to stress that within the Private Sector, there has been predominant interest in strategy formulation, with strategy delivery receiving far lesser attention – so even in the Private Sector, the effectiveness of strategy implementation has been mixed.

Strategy formulation is the sexy area, with many large consulting houses available to help Private Sector organizations – typical strategy consultants are aged in their early twenties with first class honours degrees from top universities. In practice, in most Private Sector organizations, implementation is subordinated, and typically handled in-house, without recourse to strategy consultants. Many Private Sector organizations have successfully turned to Professional Interims as a supplementary resource to help them with effective strategy implementation.

In the interests of brevity, within this blog, I intend to highlight the key ingredients of Best Practice in Strategy Implementation. I shall not discuss or comment on the elements but let the interested reader dig into the available evidence (cited above).

Critical ingredients in successful strategy implementation typically include:

  • Effective stakeholder sponsorship
  • Senior leadership to recognize (a) leadership competencies, (b) critical success factors, and (c) distinctive/core competencies
  • Empowerment
  • Cultural artifacts
  • Organization development
  • Human factors
  • Middle-management committment
  • Quality initiatives
  • Employee buy-in
  • Performance measurement

Unfortunately, in the Public Sector, there is the belief that Peter Gershon’s minimums are enough to secure effective implementation/delivery. To restate, these are:

  • Political sponsor at Ministerial Level
  • Programme with effective governance

There is a widespread simplistic view in the Public Sector that effective delivery can be secured from following the prescripts of good Programme/Project Management and relying upon Gateway Reviews. I have commented in an earlier blog that the traditional approach to Project Management is being increasingly challenged and cited some pioneering German research which offers an alternative paradigm. There is an urgent need for Public Sector CEOs to embrace Best Practice in strategy formulation and strategy implementation – to serious reduce the risk of transformation failure, I would encourage them to deploy external change agents (professional interims).

It is relevent to restate the conclusions from my earlier blog on Business Transformation, namely:

Permanent Secretaries and Local Authority Chief Executives are not like their peers in the Private Sector – they typically come from a different background (often policy or Civil Servant generalists). Private Sector peers, in successful businesses have the leadership, vision, strategy and risk-profile to engage in aggressive Business Transformation. Typically in the Public Sector, a Transformation Director is appointed, who is a familiar face in the organization, rather than an accomplished Transformation specialist. This context of risk aversion, normally leads to employment of expensive consultants for both design and delivery of proposed transformation. Some Public Sector organizations have wisely deployed highly skilled independent transformation specialists “client-side”, to help them manage the suppliers and the transformation. With Cabinet Office freezes on consultants and professional interims, some Public Sector organizations are now attempting transformation activities with internal or re-cycled staff – in my view, the risks are enormous, and are likely to outweigh the benefits of the programme.

Lord Adonis recently commented:

There is danger in any major transformation too that you lose the best people. The civil service is, just like any workforce, dependent on motivation, good leadership, encouragement and a talent retention policy. Ministers have just as much a role to play here as the civil service leaders themselves.

E. CONCLUSION

Effective transformation is really important because the greater the savings from transformation, the lower the level of cuts from front-line services. Why are transformation activities being excluded by the Government in favour of de facto cuts to front line services? Is it the reform agenda, political will, Public Sector leadership, inertia? Is it because of the shortage of transformation specialists and champions in the Public Sector?

Perhaps, it would now be timely to reconsider the Cabinet Office’s Catch 22 type controls on consultants and interim managers? Catch 22 controls mean that some of the UK’s most talented and experienced transformation specialists are on the bench. The UK probably has the most developed interim management community in the World – surely this is a competitive advantage wasted? If the Coalition Government truly believe in neoliberalism they should remove the barriers to independent consultants and professional interims.

F. NEXT STEPS

  1. For sure, policy-makers need to break out of the Cost-Cutting/Product (Service) Pruning downward spiral. A vision is required for Public Services, with a cohesive strategy and well sponsored and professionally managed Transformation Programmes need to follow, with effective governance.
  2. For critical Business Transformation Programmes, skills shortages need early attention. Programmes will be seriously de-risked by turning to the professional interim market for transition specialists and transformation experts.
  3. Effective Programme governance will need to focus on the Best Practice points from Private Sector strategy implementation experience.
  4. There is an urgent need for politicians and Public Sector CEOs to embrace both strategy formulation and strategy implementation.
  5. Public Sector leaders, and possibly politicians, as well, need appropriate mentoring – again, there is an available resource with the professional interim market.
  6. The effectiveness of Government policy for small business and enterprise should be tracked by appropriate metrics, for example, professional interims can be tracked using industry data captured by the Interim Management Association

APPENDIX

Transcript of John Gelmini‘s Response to an Earlier Blog:

Whilst I agree with you that local authorities lack the skill to effect radical shared service transformation, I do not agree that 40% savings are unattainable or that we should be prepared to settle for 20%.

Why do I say this?

  • To begin with we have as a country far too many local authorities, far too many police forces and far too many Ambulance Trusts.
  • Secondly, as Sir Philip Green was able to identify, in just one month, Government and local authority procurement is inefficient and loses taxpayers millions by dint of its lack of scale economy.
  • Currently we have 350 local authorities in this country with the power to raise money and spend it.
  • On top of that we have about 8700 smaller councils all of which require buildings, some staff and money.
  • The UK is a postage stamp when compared with countries like France and if one looks at a French Department, the equivalent of an English County, one can see that they have 95 Departments whereas we have around 67 County Councils and  a number of Unitary Authorities often overlapping County boundaries which take the total to nearly the same figure.
  • Given that France is triple the size this would equate to 270 French Departments each with its own CEO, each with its own buildings, IT infrastructure and service directorates and each with its own staff.
  • The argument for this UK approach  is population density, yet in Scotland, Wales  and Northern Ireland we have the Barnett Formula which gives every man woman and child in these Celtic fringes up to £3,500 GBP a head extra to cover the costs of delivering services to these sparsely populated places.
  • We have 43 English constabularies and four successive Home Secretaries have tried to get this reduced to a more manageable 12.
  • The Chief Constables aided by in the judiciary scuppered Michael Howard’s plans in this regard – the supposedly secret Ingrid Posen review into police force mergers and was leaked and rubbished.
    David Blunkett was taken to court over his plans, which the judiciary said were examples of him acting “Ultra Vires”.
  • Dr John Reid, who said the “Home Office was not fit for purpose”, was challenged by the Chief Constables and now Teresa May is being warned of a vast increase in crime by Chief Constables.
  • Taking the councils first, there is no economic case for Districts and Boroughs to exist at all because with G-Biz style tools, it is possible to integrate these services in outsourced or jointly held shared service centres, as Suffolk is already doing in conjunction with BT Global Services.
  • My own work at a 3 star county council in East Anglia suggests high levels of over-manning across the board, and in looking at Districts and Boroughs the situation is in all probability just as bad.
  • In two or one star authorities (i.e. most of them), the figures are worse.
  • Turning now to Unitary Authorities, these operate in the same geographical area as county councils, thus duplicating service provision in overlapping areas.
  • Each police force in the UK has two call centres, one for emergency calls  and dispatching, and the other 311 call centre for non emergency calls.
  • A similar arrangement exists for the fire service and then there is the question of ambulance dispatching and after hours GP care.
  • County and Unitary Authorities each have 2 call centres as well, one for General Enquiries and a second one for pre assessment of potential adult social care recipients.
  • Given that Adult Social care represents up to 50% of most county council budgets much more could be done to use CRM (Customer Relationship Marketing) to identify, for example, obese people and at risk adults, in order to divert them away from lifestyle choices which would otherwise turn them into recipients of Adult Social Care.
  • Using a combination of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), annualised hours and multi-skilling, a shared service centre, covering the work of say 4 County Councils, 4 merged police forces, 4 merged fire dispatching units and 4 county ambulance trusts ought to be possible in a greenfield site, plus staggered shifts using mobile, flexible and home working, embracing the philosophy of Project Nomad.
  • A reduction of staff at lower levels would be circa 50%, whilst at higher levels where the pay is greatest circa 75% of the CEO’s and Chief Constables, Fire Chiefs and Ambulance Trust CEO’s would go under this proposal.
  • IT could be “near-shored” to a lower cost location, and after hours cover would be via automated agents.
  • The elimination of Districts and Boroughs would then enable the creation of county unitary authorities, which could be merged again until England  had just 12 counties, 12 police services,  plus two for London and just 12 shared service centres plus two for London.

 

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13 responses

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  7. Alf,

    Good analysis. Where do you see the 3rd/voluntary sector fitting in with the drive to neo-liberalism (be it fast or slow burning)?
    I did a lot of work on third sector commissioning via the cabinet office in 2008/09, and whilst it has been rebadged as ‘civil society’ rather than 3rd sector, the current government is still putting a lot of resource and ‘oomph’ behind it.
    I am working on transformation of adult social care at the moment, and there is a fair bit of emphasis on civil society and social enterprise a la Red Tory via Philip Blond and ResPublica. Not the usual bag for the big 4, as it is too fragmented at the delivery end. Cynics are saying that this is cost (cut?) shunting and will deliver little in the way of outcomes – others see it as a way of developing innovation and commissioning around outcomes rather than outputs, while at the same time building social capital. Any views?

    Barry.

    • Barry,

      Thanks for the positive feedback.

      Civil Society & 3rd sector are not really my area of expertise.

      Taking my three forces, namely: TREASURY CASH CONSTRAINTS; RADICAL REFORM; and LOCALISM/BIG SOCIETY, I sometimes imagine them in a Venn diagram of circles partially overlapping. Where the three circles overlap is the most challenging & I sense that in the short-term, the Treasury will prevail.

      As you have some experience with Civil Society, perhaps you would like to share some of the risk elements that need to be addressed in the Business Case?

      Thanks

      Alf

  8. Hi Alf,

    Interesting analysis. I would like to explore the public sector approach to strategy that you have described, and perhaps look at the role of regulation over the last 14 years. I would argue that there are many public sector managers – my experience has been of local government – who are well versed in strategy and strategic planning. However, my experience over the term(s) of the last governemnt was that if you didn’t fit the ‘one size fits all’ view of regulators and inspectors like the Audit Commission, then you wouldn’t get the ‘star’ ratings. Hence every local authority in the land seemed to be striving to be the best place in the land to ‘live, work, visist and play’. I would posit that the very regime that was designed to increase perfromance, (CPA, CAA, Use of Resources, Public Spending Agreements) actually stifled strategic thinking and innovation through the implementation of a tick box fed by irrlelevant targets. The correlation between customer satisfaction and CPA ratings my well reveal an inverse relationship. The word ‘strategy’ was bandied about so much it became meaningless – it was calculated that the government required Unitary councils to have over 80 statutory strategies! How meaningful could that be for a single organisation?
    But that was then. The new Government has implemented localism in response to many of these critcisms. A lot of managers are blinking in the new dawn – some are holding on to the old target regime even tough its been largely abolished. Others are tearing up the old strategies and taking a more coherent view, as you describe above. But, and this is a big but, the need for savings is immediate, and stategy formulation and implementation takes time – as the government are finding out with the NHS, University Fees, and Defence Cuts (strategic review?).

    • Hi Barry,

      Many thanks for taking the time and preparing a detailed response.

      I recognise that you have many years of Local Government experience but I must say that I comfortably agree with much of your argument.

      I have spent a great deal of time in the Public Sector, more in Central Government than Local Government, and recognise that there are many very talented & hard-working people in the Public Sector. Sadly, concepts like public service are out of fashion.

      Indeed a Central Government colleague responded privately to an earlier blog, referring to the heavy-weight Private Sector executives brought in to the Public Sector – arguing that they too are seemingly ineffective, getting worn down by the process of getting things done – and eventually “going native”.

      As I indicated in an earlier blog, I genuinely believe that much of the blame rests with the politicians who are “constantly meddling” & changing their minds.

      We seem to have gone from “Centralization & Big Government” to the radical antithesis. But what are the true colours of this antithesis?

      For me there are a number of conflicting forces:

      1. TREASURY CASH CONSTRAINTS which are largely falling on “slash & burn” cuts to front line services

      2. RADICAL REFORM which seems to be following Naked Neoliberalism (a market-driven approach to everything which assumes that the Private Sector is best)

      3. LOCALISM & BIG SOCIETY which seem to be in conflict with (1) & (2).

      Personally, I remember well the “supply-side changes” of Margaret Thatcher’s era and the privatization of vast publicly owned industries. In pure neoliberal economic terms, these were probably a success but we have seen decades of subsequent poor service, indifferent quality and under-investment – many customers would argue that regulated industries have not been successful in driving cost reduction.

      I agree with you that there has not been effective Strategic Analysis, so concepts like Strategy Implementation are probably even further from the Government’s mind.

      Personally, I sense that Neoliberalism will prevail & be the dominent legacy, assuming the Government lasts the course. I envision vast swathes of the Public Sector outsourced in one form or another, be it “Naked Privatization” or “Slow Burn Outsourcing” – outsource providers & big consultancies will probably have rich pickings.

      It is still possible to reduce the risks by mobilizing the help of professional interims to work alongside the Public Sector transformation teams – these are experienced Private & Public Sector executives, used to delivering strategic change, and standing up to bullying tactics from suppliers.

      Thanks

      Alf

  9. John,

    Thank you for your very comprehensive response to my blog.

    Many of the points that you raise are political issues and it would be interesting to convass the views of the major political parties on some of these ideas.

    You seem to support the “omnishambles” argument and I agree with your point about efficiency and localism.

    It’s interesting that the Cabinet Office has deferred the publication of its White Paper until after the election in May – this was originally scheduled for January. Also the Cabinet Office have effectively subsumed OGC and archived all of OGCs Best Practice guidelines (Project Management, Procurement, Gateway etc.) – whilst the archived versions are still available, they contain a health warning that they do not necessarily reflect Government policy and are being re-written.

    At the moment, the “omnishambles” argument has not been picked up by the financial markets as a risk to the UK economy but it’s a very slippery pole with lots of downside risk, in my view.

    I agree with you that it would make sense for the Cabinet Office to reverse its “Catch 22 policy” and turn selectively to the professional interim market for help. Whilst professional interims thrive on crisis, they are also very effective (and cost competitive) transition specialists and transformation leaders – they provide a credible alternative to consultants especially in delivery & getting things done, and it support the Coalition Government Small Business & Enterprise agenda.

    Thanks again

    Alf

  10. I cannot disagree with the premises behind this blog which is all about how to avoid an Omnishambles in terms of implementing the Government’s change agenda and in terms of meeting the ambitious pace of change that Ministers have to meet to complete the task and eliminate the deficit by May 15th 2015.

    DICHOTEMY
    ——————
    The Government has made the task of deficit reduction and change much more difficult for itself than needs to be the case by creating several hostages to fortune.

    The first of these is “Localism”, which is completely at odds with the necessity for optimised procurement processes and the enhanced buying power that comes with size.

    If purchasing decisions are simply driven down to a local level, savings whether it is in shared services or anything else will not be there.

    A better way is scaled up purchasing and localised branding.

    For example the police force of the State of New Hampshire in the USA (A state which is 3 times the size of the British Isles), purchase all their police cars from one leasing company owned by GE.

    In the UK we have 43 English constabularies, more in Scotland and Wales, the British Transport Police and the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

    Although there are some purchasing consortia most police forces buy their own police cars, handcuffs, machine guns, cameras, helicopters, furniture, charge room pedestals, stationery, computers, software, data storeage, radios and uniforms.

    This represents a colossal waste of resources as do the purchasing practices of Government departments,the NHS and local government.

    This is evidenced by the work of Sir Philip Green whose one month long review and report to David Cameron identified an 8 fold difference within some Government Departments of the pricing of standard items ranging from stationery to computers.

    Within the MOD, perhaps (in my view) the most inefficient and wasteful department of state of them all, there has never been a single instance within my lifetime of a project or piece of procurement being delivered on time and within budget.
    This is despite the fact that Prince 2 is the standard adopted by the MOD, and all Government Departments for project work and despite the fact that project tolerances under the methodology which is owned by the Office of Government Commerce are supposed to be no more than 6% to 8%.

    In fact Prince 2 states that projects which breach these guidelines no longer have”continued business justification” and must be stopped.

    With the MOD, projects rarely are stopped so one wonders what the justification can possibly be.

    Not for nothing have several ministers ranging from Dr John Reid toDr Liam Fox, described this ministry and the Home Office as “not fit for purpose”.

    The MOD’s catalogue of failures goes back to long before the Basil de Ferranti affair,the commissioning and subsequent cancellation of Blue Streak by the so called Wilson Government and the Bowman radio which came in 12 times over budget and 12 years too late.

    This wastage has left us dangerously exposed and put us into a position as a nation where we can no longer defend oil reserves or sea lanes carrying food and exports,without calling upon the French for co-operation and the Americans to assist us whenever we need to project power over very long distances.

    Retired General Sir Mike Jackson has said publicly on television that questions remain unanswered about our ability to defend the Falklands although the Government has taken a more sanguine view.

    SCALE ECONOMY
    ————————

    To achieve real savings quickly the Government needs to achieve scale economies at a local and national level and that means looking at what we have too much of:
    ..Too Many
    …Local Authorities
    …Police Forces
    …NHS Managers
    …Purchasing points
    …Purchasing managers
    …Call centres
    …Dispatching centres
    …Civil servants
    …Local authority staff
    …MP’s
    …Chief Constables
    …Local authority CEO’s
    …Quangos

    All of these need to be looked at in detail but as a rule of thumb we need much less of everything and whenever possible no more than 4 to 5 layers between the person at the top and the lowest grade employee and with spans of control at around 1 supervisor to 10 employees.

    Police forces and local authorities should merge until there are 12 English Unitary counties and 12 police forces plus 2 police forces for London,two for Wales and perhaps 4 for Scotland.

    The British Transport police would be broken up and it’s officers redeployed to the reorganised police forces described above.

    Districts and Boroughs,City Councils and the present unitaries would be abolished and the functions of these eliminated authorities would be taken on by the enlarged county unitaries.

    With fewer counties and fewer police forces shared service centres could be much larger,to the point where one could have 20 for the entire country covering police emergency dispatch,NHS ambulance dispatch,non emergency communications and the 311 service on one floor.

    On another floor would be the former communications links to customers of the former district and borough councils,the enlarged county councils and the former unitary authorities.

    On the top floor would be the central core of service directorates for the enlarged county unitary authorities and in a separate but adjacent building would be the enlarged policing hub, magistrates court, holding cells and counseling areas for lawyers and their clients.

    IT, software, printing, workflow and imaging, data storeage (except for confidential police data) would be outsourced and white labelled to appropriate providers who would work to demanding SLA,s within a fully transparent Lean /Six Sigma environment.

    As for MP’s, in my view, their number needs to be reduced to say 200 with a substantial increase in pay and access to outsourced staff to handle correspondence.

    They would not be allowed to do other jobs and would be required to work every day.

    The other 459 should go -This would produce the savings needed to fund blocks of flats where single MP’s could live.
    Married MP’s would be given a cash lump sum each year towards the costs of accommodation.

    CONSULTATION
    ———————–
    People will argue that this approach is contrary to local democracy and that the bigger shared services centres will be remote from the people they serve.

    The reality is that local democracy is in reality a fiction.

    Many decisions are taken in closed session or in secret at various locations .

    Where there is consultation it is often a sham.

    For example in Huntingdon 93% of people consulted did not want the “guided bus” between St Ives and the Cambridge Science Park.

    They wanted a light railway.

    Today the guided bus still hasn’t been built, costs have escalated and the whole project was characterised by wrangling between the County Council and the contractors.

    In Hitchin, Hertfordshire, the council is wanting to redevelop the historic town centre yet most people want the place left alone.

    They are not being listened to.

    This sort of thing goes on the length and breadth of the land so what is the point of having so many councils and for that matter so many police forces?

    Far better to do away with the pretence of consultation and simply go for scale economy within the context of shared service centres and public services we can afford.

    HOW CAN ALL THIS BE ACHIEVED
    ———————————————-

    On present form, the answer is not civil servants or local government employees because theirs is a record of obstructing change and even reversing it.

    Ted Heath tried local government reorganisation in 1974 with a view to reducing headcount by 100,000.
    The result was an Omnishambles and a workforce 150,000 higher.

    Mrs Thatcher tried through the poll tax,but the implementation was bungled and ill thought through.She also prohibited the use of funds derived from council house sales because she remembered what damage local authorities caused through hiking business rates on small businesses like her father,s grocery shop and introduced overarching capping powers.

    The result of the introduction of the poll tax was rioting and semi insurrection but cunning and ingenious local authority CEO’s continued to add to their payrolls and junketing by finding a way around Mrs Thatcher,s capping powers by increasing parking fines and introducing higher building charges.

    They are still at it today, (recently Liverpool City Council quoted £150,000 for the renovation of a 2 bedroomed terraced house with a valuation of £100,000) and Westminster is the first council in the country to make more money from parking fines than it did from Council tax.

    The police are also resistant to reform and have taken Government ministers to court to declare programmes on police reform, ultra vires.

    Turning now to the Big 4 management consultants, they too, in my view, are probably not capable of doing the job, because everything I have described has happened on their watch and the figures are telling.

    Also unlike interims and perhaps the “sons of Proudfoot” they do not implement anything and even if they did they would be and are very expensive,perhaps 2 to 3 times as much as interim provision.

    Compared with other leading industrial nations the UK is 17th when it comes to value per taxpayer pound or dollar.
    Singapore gets triple the value we do ,so why are we so inefficient?

    The answer is that they decision tree every policy and calculate whether it will increase tax revenue,deliver value and make people more prosperous.

    UK civil servants do not look at the full consequences of policies ,nor do they cost them properly.

    The so called Assets Recovery Agency which is now closed is a good example because instead of recovering money from drug barons and criminals it ended up costing more to run.

    Why?

    Well it was because the criminals were cleverer at hiding their assets than the lawyers and investigative staff at the Agency were at trying to catch them.

    This occurred because civil servants at the Treasury didn,t want to pay enough money to find cleverer people to tackle the more sophisticated criminals.

    There are many other examples but if the Government really wants to eliminate the deficit by the time of the next election it needs to stop using boys to do a man,s job.

    It’s time for them to call in the “A” team-Interim Managers who represent a “Much misunderstood strategic resource, capable of realising a 10 to 20 fold return on fees at a speed and in a manner which none of the aforementioned could emulate in a month of Sunday’s.

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