This evening, when I checked the stats on my various blogs, I was surprised to see that the following article was attracting an increasing number of hits, once again:
As I re-read the above blog, I was fascinated as to why it was so popular. I do not want to revisit the plight of teachers nor the collapse in education standards compared to international benchmarks. However, I am interested in generalizing across central and local government, looking for evidence-based policy; further I want to see both objective and subjective evidence. It’s not acceptable for ministers to rely on ideological motives alone, based on short-term political gain.
Before, I go on, let my declare my own political bias, I am a one-nation conservative, who favors small government and is passionately anti-bureaucracy.
As I think back over our blogs over the last three years, there has been widespread evidence of failure in David Cameron‘s leadership and government, across both central and indirectly across local government too. As predicted, front-line services have been slashed and quality standards plummeted.
Yet I still maintain that there is enormous waste in central and local government; also there is an huge challenge to reduce EU bureaucracy, as well. There are far too many levels of management, not enough consolidation. There are still massive opportunities to cut costs:
- Taking a strategic approach to problem solving
- Reducing political intervention
- Eliminating restrictive work practices favored by trade unions
- Deploying national service centers for front and back office operations;
- Outsourcing all operational activities, apart from policy-making
- Off-shoring non-strategic activities
- Deploying private sector best-practice in procurement
It seems bizarre that the political classes and the bureaucrats are still wheeling-out their same old cronies, from the big consulting firms, who have been criticized by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Independent cost-effective, professionals, like interim managers, are very much seen as canon-fodder, commoditized to contract labor, typically described as contingency labor.
Some years ago, I was a specialist in strategic cost management systems. One popular technique was Activity-Based Costing (ABC). ABC simply analyzes all service activities into value-added and non-value-added. In the case of the previous example, with teachers, ABC would determine the percentage of teachers’ time effectively deployed on front-line services, viz. teaching. ABC gives focus for waste reduction or consolidation and rationalization.
This blog has likened David Cameron to a political butterfly, flitting from one pretty flower to the next, e.g. gay marriage. Both my fellow-blogger John Gelmini and myself feel that David Cameron’s Government has been far too weak on public sector reform. Rather than using techniques like ABC and rationalizing non-value added services, Cameron’s ministers have let the ax fall on front-line services. George Osborne‘s treasury projections, as a baseline into the next government, call for continued austerity. Many feel that there will be a push-back as the economy picks up and Osborne’s projections will not be sustainable.
This blog has consistently argued in favor of:
- Evidence-based policy
- Broad vision statement
- Comprehensive strategic evaluation of options
- Radical reform
- Effective delivery
Let me turn this to two open question:
- If the UK Government deployed Activity-Based Costing, what percentage of the of budgets on critical areas, like education and health etc. should be deployed on front-line services, adding value?
- Should the UK Treasury set targets for percentage of budgets deployed by front-line services?