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Cheers - AE

Saturday, 19 February 2011

A little less conversation, a little more action please - UPDATED

Why the Cobbleition are announcing this as if it's something they've just discovered is beyond me.
Almost three million people are employed by local borough councils after an “explosion” in “crazy non-jobs”, the Coalition has claims.
Local authorities have taken on an extra 180,000 workers since 1997, with the total number not employed in traditional front-line roles now standing at almost 750,000, according to ministers.
The Coalition is highlighting the figures at a time when councils are threatening to cut basic services and increase charges because of cuts in central government funding.
All true, but be fair, fellas. The Taxpayers Alliance and various parts of the media and blogosphere have been banging on about this for years. Even now the non-jobs are still being advertised in teh Graun - looking now I find ads for a Prevention Key Worker for an unnamed public sector organisation's Youth Inclusion and Support Panel, and a Youth Offending Team manager for Pembrokeshire; a heap of assorted research jobs for The Work Foundation, "the leading independent authority on work and its future"; and something called a Change Manager for Essex County Council. I've read the job descriptions for all of these and mostly I have no idea what the fuck they're talking about. The youth stuff sounds like it's to do with reducing or preventing youth crime, which to me sounds like something the police should be doing with their share of the council tax rather than adding to the bill by getting the council to do it too. While much of the rest is just incomprehensible public sector jobspeak. Here's The Work Foundation on their requirements for a couple of the research jobs:
Our Ideopolis team is an important source of analysis and advice for the UK’s cities at what is a critical time for their economies.
Through our Bottom Ten Million programme, we investigate policies for labour market disadvantage, and the way cities and government can address in-work poverty and unemployment.
Our Cities 2020 programme focuses in the drivers of urban growth, and how policymakers can help cites thrive in the recovery.
We are seeking talented individuals to work on these exciting programmes. You will have strong qualitative and quantitative researcher skills and an interest in urban issues, labour markets and economic policy. You may already have been working as a researcher in a similar field for a couple of years, have equivalent academic experience or be keen to start your career in research.
We are seeking to develop and grow our already significant reputation for applied research in the area of ‘People Effectiveness’ with appointment of researchers to the team. You will have strong qualitative and/or quantitative applied research skills, and enjoy working on a variety of projects on the People Management agenda, including Health and Wellbeing, Future of HR and Leadership. You will have proven research skills and the ability to collect, interrogate and analyse data. Working in a lively and provocative programme that is looking at trends, not only in the UK but internationally, you will have a keen interest in the world of work and a desire to influence both policy and practice.
And here's the guff about Essex's Change Manager job:
You’ll play a crucial role in ensuring the changes we make are successful and sustainable. Uniquely, you’ll work across services – you’ll be a key member of the Transformation Unit, but you’ll also sit within a core business area undergoing change or re-design. Throughout the transformation process, you’ll be responsible for preparing the teams there for the impact of the improvements. Both leading and facilitating change, you’ll be required to work closely – and engagingly – with directors and managers, and a wide range of other people. You’ll support the business in developing change tools, lead change review meetings and provide strategic advice and support on processes, people and practice to key stakeholders. In short, you’ll make sure everyone is ready, willing and able to embrace change, and help make these improvements happen. You’ll enjoy a variety of unique challenges across multiple complex projects.
Passionate about achieving results and responsive to customer needs, you’re a bold thinker with a motivational and supportive approach. Educated to degree level, or with equivalent experience, you are a highly motivated individual with demonstrable drive and relevant knowledge. You have a track record of good experience and proven skills across the management of change, people, resources and projects / programmes. And it’s vital that you’re confident working with a wide variety of people.
When we realised that change was coming in the public sector, we acted fast. Our response was to embed an unprecedented transformation agenda – one with the scope and ambition to reach every part of the council. Our plan was to drive improvement across the council, at every level and in every department. In the way we think, the way we work, and the ways in which we deliver our services. We’ve made remarkable progress so far, but there is much more to do. This is why we need you.
See? Perfectly normal and understandable words artfully arranged into gibberish. If Essex Council is unable to explain what the Change Manager will actually do for the £35,500 to £59,500 they're prepared to pay then how can anyone, especially residents of Essex, know that this isn't yet another expensive make-work position being funded from the taxes of people who fucking work for a living?* And of course the crowning turd in the water pipe, to use General Melchett's legendary phrase, is that town clerks are still calling themselves CEOs and, despite cuts, still being paid more than the Prime Minister of the whole bloody nation (and, yes, that's in teh Graun jobs section at the moment too). Not that I'd go to bat for Cameramong and his pay packet but the idea that a town clerk with a flash job title is worth more is incredible.

And what are the Cobbleition doing about it now they have, after nine months in office, noticed this?
Bob Neill, the local government minister, said: “These figures reveal the explosion in town hall jobs and bureaucracy under Labour and reinforce the need for some councils to start cutting out middle management."
Yes, but what are you actually doing about it?
“Crazy non-jobs like cheerleading development officers and press officers tasked with spinning propaganda on bin collections provide no value to the public."
Yes, but what are you actually doing about it?
“Getting rid of the bloated bureaucracy that has grown in some elements of local government will ensure local authorities can protect front-line services.”
Okay, so are you actually going to do anything about it?
Yesterday, ministers seized on Liverpool city council’s decision to advertise three highly paid “non-jobs” on a day when it was announcing job cuts in other areas.
They were for a director of regeneration and employment on a salary of “up to £140,000”; an assistant director of adult services on £90,000 a year; and an assistant director for supporting communities, also on £90,000 a year.
Are you actually able to do anything about it?
Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, is demanding that...
Wait a minute? What happened to local government minister Bob Neill? Look, if Bob's simply going to leave it to Eric do we even need Bob? Why is there a Local Government minister and a Communities and Local Government Secretary? I spy an opportunity for savings, gents. Anyway, carry on.
Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, is demanding that councils “put their own house in order” before considering cuts to the front line.
He wants chief executives to take pay cuts, claiming that those on a salary of £150,000 can afford to take a five per cent cut, and those on £200,000 can afford a 10 per cent reduction.
This week it was disclosed that 220 town hall executives received a higher salary than the Prime Minister’s £142,500 a year.
At least 26 chief executives earned more than £200,000 last year and 1,000 council officials more than £100,000.
Oh dear. Apparently we need to ask Eric what we were just asking Bob. What the fuck, if anything, are you actually going to do about it?
Mr Pickles has also seized on figures showing that more than 15,000 council workers earn more than £58,000 a year. He is about to force local authorities to publish a list of the staff earning that level and above.
The Communities Secretary has published a new code of local government transparency to ensure that taxpayers can “look under the bonnet of their council” and see where town hall chiefs are spending their money.
Oh, Christ. It's like Labour never left, isn't it? Did you feckless twats dream up that yourselves or did one of your departmental Sir Humphreys reach into a drawer and dust off a plan drawn up for John Prescott a decade ago, itself possibly a redraft of something knocked out in John Major's or even Thatcher's time?

Look, if you really want this shit to stop then NuLab style edicts and codes of conduct are not the way. Surely you understand this simple truth when you yourselves point out that for the last dozen or so years public sector productivity has gone down as that of the private sector has gone up, while at the same time public sector wages have risen and overtaken those of the private sector. Christ, having a Local Government department at all is a NuLab idea - they created the bloody thing in the first place. Doesn't this give you a clue as to how things have got to where they are? Doesn't it hint that the creation of jobs, departments and functions that didn't exist 15 years ago because they were not and still are not needed is the root of the problem? New codes of transparency and repeated demands for the lunacy to end are not going to cut it. Either you order the councils to stop buggering about, which probably means little short of virtually disbanding them and micromanaging everything from Whitehall, or just give them all the rope they want and let them hang themselves.

Seriously, if you want them to stop wasting money just give all local council and authorities full control over their budget. Stop interfering with what they want to spend money on and stop feeding them money from central funds. Tell them you're going to scrap all the central government grants - not to mention NuLab's unneeded local government department that the Cobbleition have retained against all reason, which will be yet another saving** - and reduce tax accordingly, and that from the next financial year councils will be free of government interference and able to raise the revenue they think they need in whatever ways they see fit. Then sit back and watch what happens (from the back benches).

After some initial wild jubilation reality will dawn as councils suddenly realise they'll no longer have both the chequebook and the scapegoat of Westminster to fall back on, and will actually have to raise council tax and other local charges to politically suicidal levels if they wish to keep things going as they are. Massive piles of bricks will be shat in town halls across the land as the implications sink in. The majority of council funds come from Westminster which means if the taps were shut off councils would need to increase revenue their own sources, and suddenly the increasingly tricky job of justifying stuff like this
Among the jobs that have been spawned by the boom in “non-jobs” were a “bouncy castle attendant” on a salary of £13,000 at Angus council in Scotland and a “cheerleading development officer” in Falkirk.
to local voters gets even harder. Oh, sure, you can tell them that they're no worse off really. You can point out that the tax they pay to the government has fallen by roughly the same amount as local taxes have risen and that overall they're not any worse off. But the problem is perception. Councils spend about 25% of the public sector's total and get about three quarters of their money from the government, which means taxpayers will get about a 25% reduction in taxes to central government. But they'll probably barely notice that when the money they have to pay the council in council tax, car parking charges, business rates and so on will have to quadruple. Just keeping things that way will be a tough sell - creating even more bullshit jobs will be harder still. And the government will be able to stand back and tell angry council tax payers that it's not its responsibility any more, and that if they're not happy being bled white they should use the opportunity of the next local election to vote for people who will make it stop.

It's a nice dream but sadly it requires ministers with the balls to abolish their own departments and their own jobs, and a PM who's not afraid to cede both power and responsibility to the people at the sharp end. In other words David Cameron would probably have to put someone like Douglas Carswell in charge with instructions to be back on the back benches inside six months. Instead what we can expect is more talking and talking and talking from people like Eric Pickles and Bob Neill.

The King put it this way: it ain't satisfactioning anybody. And it's not helping get the rubbish collected either.

UPDATE - there's one here who was getting more than half a million.
Phil Dolan, 54, received £569,000 of taxpayers' money in salary, pension and redundancy payments after leaving his post as chief executive of South Somerset district council. He is now acting as a consultant for other local authorities.
Two other executives at the tiny council also received more than £300,000 each in salary, pension and severance payments last year.
It means every resident of the district paid the equivalent of £7 in council tax last year just to fund the three men's pay packages. Taken together, the payments represent the most dramatic example of local government largesse yet to be exposed.

* I imagine the Ambush Predator will be taking a whetstone to those fangs.
** This department has government jobs for no fewer than five MPs and a member of the Lords, on top of which there are two more in each of the corresponding departments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I'm not even going to annoy myself by trying to find out how many people the departments employ.
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