I read the ever-excellent We Love Local Government blog today with a terrible feeling of recognition and despair.
The poster described how they and their colleagues got the news of their inclusion in various redundancy pools at their council employer. It was a complete and utter mess. An almost exact demonstration in fact of how not to do it. The writer makes the point – and I agree with it – that this almost certainly wouldn’t have happened a year ago.
The trouble is the new government has put the entire public sector on a ‘war footing’. In the great deficit reduction war normal rules and standards can be set aside. Afterall this is a national emergency.
(Those of us with military connections could only dream of those fighting the actual war we’re in getting the same energetic support from politicians and the business community.)
In times like these you can tell the press before you tell your staff. You can hide behind round-robin emails rather than face the troops. Urgency and the need to win the war take precedence over the rational and civil conduct of affairs.
I’ve seen this so many times now this year in my own bit of the public sector and in others too. Our motto should be: ‘Don’t you know there’s a war on?’
Of course politicians don’t like the consequences of this. The mass redundancies, the running down of services and the growing unrest among those who will have to implement the government’s plans.
Like Basil Fawlty though I am tempted to say, ‘You started it.’
If you turn a bad fiscal position into Armageddon and summon up all the clichés to go along with it, it seems to me that you cannot be surprised when public service managers follow your lead.
‘Once more unto the breach,’ and all that.
The overwhelming majority of senior public service managers I know want to do the right thing by the communities they serve and the people they lead. Increasingly they tell me they are feeling like failures on both counts. No amount of back office efficiency is going to smooth this over.
In the meantime many more public servants will experience variations on what my colleague blogger described today. Terrible. Appalling. And absolutely inevitable.
Afterall, there’s a ‘war’ on.