Wednesday, 26 January 2005

In defence of "pen-pushers"

We all want to know the answer to this question:
COUNCIL tax bills are rising faster than wages, faster than pensions and much faster than inflation. So what is going on and who is responsible?
The Scotsman has worked out what's going on:
The answer to the council tax conundrum is simple - the rise and rise of the public sector and, for this, both the councils and the Executive are to blame.
But what's the money being spent on? Again, we are given the answer:
Labour went into the elections of 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2003 promising more teachers, nurses, doctors and police officers. The Executive has delivered on most of these promises but the new front-line workers have been accompanied by a corresponding, and untrumpeted, growth in administrators, bureaucrats and pen-pushers.
So what we need to do is to fire all those unnecessary "pen-pushers" and then, if the cash isn't to be given back to the taxpayers, at least redeploy it on those "front-line workers". Simple, isn't it? No, I don't think so.

First of all I've been around long enough to know that organisations that don't value the demeaningly-named "back-office" staff soon end up with systems that don't work, accounts that don't balance and, eventually, jobs that don't exist - even for the "front-office" staff. Of course there should be a proper evaluation of the work done by the "bureaucrats" and it may be desirable to outsource some of their functions but never forget that they are necessary.

There is another reason why I think that the Scotsman's explanation is far too simplistic. The sainted "teachers, nurses, doctors and police officers" are just as likely to be working inefficiently as the poor old bureaucrats. The reason is that they too are not working in a market environment. Stripping out the back-office will not magically make government services (sic) into paragons of efficiency. What we need to do is to return the cash to the taxpayer, let people purchase their own educational and medical services, and yes, perhaps even their need for policing. Only then will we get our money's worth and find out just how many people are required in both the back and the front offices.

1 comment:

David Farrer said...

Comment made on previous template:

Craig Weldon
By purchase our own policing, do you mean arm ourselves? Can we also purchase judges?

17 February 2005, 01:19:52 GMT