In which I get down with the kids and practice some anger management …

There will be a lot of ink (real and digital) expended about the Battle for Millbank Tower yesterday and the limits of protest. I’m not going to join in the discussion about the specifics.

I had a dose of youth anger to deal with closer to home. My youngest daughter had come home from school fuming. When I toddled in from work Mrs RPS told me I needed to hear about the cause of this ire. So I settled down in my chair to listen.

It turned out that a teacher at school had given the class the, ‘You all need to buckle down and get good GCSEs because that’s the only way to get and keep a good job’ speech. Now my daughter took umbrage at this as did many of her friends. It turned out there are quite a few kids in this particular class who have parents who have been, are or will be made redundant.

They pointed out to the teacher that their parents are variously and often wonderfully qualified yet have all suffered the spectre of being unemployed. So getting qualifications may not be enough. And getting qualifications that cost you an arm and a leg with no guarantee of getting a job is hardly an extra inducement to learning. Apparently the teacher got cross with the class’ attitude. So lots of anger all around then.

I was absurdly proud that we have produced children who are able to exercise critical judgement to test arguments and reach their own view. Unsurprisingly all that is happening to me coupled with what is happening in their world of education is coming together to produce committed, articulate and angry young people. All deeply sceptical that anyone in public life is capable of being truthful. I feel I should probably put up a warning for canvassers ahead of next year’s elections.

I blogged before here  about the variable levels of truthfulness on offer in key parts of our public life. Mrs RPS and I have obviously inculcated the importance of truthfulness into our children. We are unsurprised when a politician gives a cast iron and unequivocal guarantee that turns out to be made of an ambiguous alloy. Our children though are shocked by this shamelessness. I would dearly love them to retain that capacity to be shocked. But it’s that shock that provokes the anger.

As the evening developed I sat with both my daughters on and off. What enraged both of them most was the sight of politicians pretending to an anguish over breaking a pledge – freely entered into – they plainly do not feel. When an MP protested that circumstances had changed my oldest daughter retorted that the only thing that seemed to have changed was the chance for ‘some people’ to get a crack at cars and swanky houses. I did say she was cross. More importantly she now also has the vote.

Happily for the Big Society my children now are more likely to get involved as citizens and attempt to influence decisions. Unhappily for the Big Society architects who seem to want  it to be a franchise  – with central control over ingredients – rather truly local dishes I suspect my daughters will prove to be paid up members of the awkward squad.

They are not alone though. My contacts with public servants suggest to me that there is a substantial community out here simmering with rage. In my experience mild-mannered, middle-aged and middle-class folks are talking about national politicians with a level of bile and contempt that has stopped me cold.

The abuse hurled at public servants is the sown wind that feels like it is beginning to produce the whirlwind. The Secretary of State for Communities began to feel that wind for real over the weekend (see @ajrhayman’s weekend twitterfeed and LGC article(£) for details).

And this is all before any of the real cuts begin to bite. It’s worth remembering that. The cuts we have had so far are but a single note of an overture before the orchestra really gets going. I’m obviously trying to work out if I’m still playing the triangle or going for a trickier instrument.

But you can rest easy that I managed to help my children manage their anger. It was easy. I simply deflected them into arguing with each other. That always makes them feel better. Divide and rule? Now that couldn’t possibly work elsewhere as a strategy, could it?


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
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11 Responses to In which I get down with the kids and practice some anger management …

  1. Tim Swift says:

    I’m consistently touched and impressed by your posts. As a local councillor struggling with the ‘cuts’ agenda, I suspect you are right about the slow-burning anger of many middle-ranking public sector workers.

    There was a poll in the LGC yesterday suggesting that the confidence of Council leaders and Chief Execs in Eric Pickles has fallen by 57% since the election. (I’m only surprised anyone ever had that much confidence in him, but that’s probably just my personal prejudice showing).

    • Dear Councillor Tim,

      Thanks for reading the blog and taking the time to comment. The confidence figures would worry me if I was leading a change programme that depended on these folks for delivery. But perhaps the CLG team know something we don’t?

      Best wishes


  2. Andy Marr says:

    “In my experience mild-mannered, middle-aged and middle-class folks are talking about national politicians with a level of bile and contempt that has stopped me cold.”

    Just about sums me up, altough you missed out “red-faced, fat and bald” from my post yesterday!

  3. Trucks says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for your blog. i found it via twitter on Monday shortly after receiving my 90 days “consultation” period from my employer, a local authority in the Northwest facing £49 million in cuts, £30 million of which are to be front loaded in the first year. Many of your posts have found resonance with me as I have started on the journey of trying to come to terms with redundancy and all the emotions which go with it. I hope you are shortly successful in finding new gainful employment and look forward to reading more in the mean time.

    • Dear Trucks,

      I am so sorry to read your news. I hope you find the content and the resources on the blog helpful. Some of the offers for support and the free resources that have been signposted have helped folks. But I know just how hard all this is.

      Good luck and best wishes for the future,


  4. citizenr says:

    I’ve blogged before about the feisty, articulate young people I see in schools who never get the credit they deserve. Well done to your daughter and her friends for standing up what they believe in, long may it continue.

  5. @DavidWhe says:

    Excellent blog – also discovered it through twitter. Both me and Mrs W are “at risk” after 29 and 31 years (respectively) loyal service. I specifically liked your blog about feisty articulate young people!!! Keep up the good work!

  6. methuselah says:

    First off, I must congratulate you on a thoughtful, balanced and well written blog. Hopefully, your energetic search for a “new challenge” (as they say) will bear fruit very soon.

    Your musings, and those of commenters in a similar position, have been very enlightening. What is most surprising is that none of you appear to have had any experience whatsoever of redundancy. How have you and others posting here worked for decades without going through this process or even seen it from a distance?

    The process you are experiencing is one that in fifteen years in the private sector I have personally gone through half a dozen times. Sometimes, four or five people were let go. Others, the last time (2008), my entire team was made redundant in a bizarrely efficient process wihch required hiring extra contract HR people to undertake.

    No heads up, no being politely informed that we were “at risk” and effectively being given months of notice. On one occasion, we were called into a room to be told that there were to be redundancies. We all had return to our desks to sit, in an open plan office, and wait for the phone to ring. When that happened, up that person stood stood, looked embarrassed, then left the office to see HR where their passes and phone would be taken from them and they would be escorted from the building by security. The PA would then box all their stuff which would be posted on. At the end of the process, the boss came back downstairs and told us that we’d survived. This time.

    What you have / are experiencing is uncivilised and suboptimal and I have great sympathy. The process seems clumsy, for example hearing on the radio, but people (including civil servants) gossip, hence leaks which require premature announcements

    However, from reading your blog, to be honest it seems that it’s being managed quite well compared to the above, and you are having all of your entitlements honoured. If you company has gone belly up, you may not even have your leave paid out. If you’d worked for Robert Maxwell, goodbye pension.

    Which brings me onto my final point: my impression from your posts is that you do not regard your “gold plated” pension as being such. I started my career in the public sector with a final salary pension that cost me the sum of GBP 100 per month and it paid 90ths (USS scheme). Thirty years in that job, I would have a third of my final (probably professorial) salary so maybe 25k in today’s money.

    My last UK private sector job (2007) was defined contributions, and so I was paying in GBP900 PER MONTH which, after thirty years, would give me a princely salary of GBP18.5k a year. Unless the market tanked. Which it did, so now it’s GBP12k. Try planning your life around that. And it isn’t as if my ex-college buddies who entered the civil service are paid that poorly anymore: that argument is defunct and it’s a double dip because they have a final salary pension.

    Government pensions are indeed gold plated, unlike anything else in the pensions market: they are generous and will be honoured. The best way to antagonise anyone who has had to pay into a guaranteed contributions scheme, as I have, is to deny this. It simply is impossible to argue away. Why do you think your employer and other offering final salary are so keen to move people off such schemes? They cost the employer far, far more than they ever recoup in contributions and investment earnings.

    You have been incredibly incredibly lucky to have had the chance to have been a loyal servant for 20 years. However, such service is not unique to the civil one: many would love to have had the chance to demonstrate such loyalty.

    The thing is, in the private sector, few do.

    • Dear Methuselah,

      Thank you for visiting the blog and taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment. I’ll try to pick up your points.

      I have been involved in redundancies that affected my wider family. I have also been involved in managing redundancies in my own organisation. I was foolish in not once thinking that this is something that could happen to me. Not a mistake I am ever likely to repeat.

      On the process I think it’s right to say everyone is trying their best with the cards they have been dealt. You’re right to point out the differences between sectors but I have also heard of private sector redundancy programmes that were well-managed and not as brutal as some.

      I recognise and value the pension I have. I’m lucky to have had the chance to be in a defined benefit scheme. I doubt I;ll get another chance. My organisation’s scheme is a funded one though and well-managed (we had already increased contributions and the age at which folks could access the pension) so is in a different category to the unfunded public sector schemes. Like most people my age I know I’ll be working longer and probably having at least two more careers before retiring.

      I understand what you say about loyalty and I feel very proud of my service. I have been privileged. But, of course, very many public servants have had a much less happy experience than me. So I appreciate the difference.

      Best wishes


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