I’ve been to a coffee morning this morning to bid farewell to my excellent team. It was one of those happy-sad occasions. We chewed the cud over the funny incidents and accidents of our time together. And we talked about the future.
For a couple of my more mature colleagues redundancy has enabled them to plan for a future that sounds suspiciously like the Big Society. Volunteering in a local school. Working in a charity shop. Putting those years of experience and knowledge to work profitably to help their local communities.
For others the future is much less certain. My younger colleagues with larger mortgages, younger children and talents that no longer seem valued by society are in a different place. Modest pay-offs will not last long. So job hunting has taken on a feverish tempo.
I am intensely proud of each of them. They were a pleasure to lead and any organisation would be better for employing them. They bring warmth, good sense and practical know-how to any problem they encounter. It’s deeply depressing to think of them as redundant public servants.
But, of course, they are one team among many. Farewells are such a commonplace event now that they are barely remarked upon.
As we munched cupcakes our thoughts turned to the state of our professional world and the many organisations with which we had worked. We’d each kept in touch with our contacts and it soon emerged that the trickle of workers leaving employment is fast becoming a flood. Inexorably numbers creep higher as new individuals and teams join the flow. No organisation that we could think of was untouched at any level.
We talked too about the news on the radio this morning about greater transparency over public sector pay. Colleagues heading off into the sunset cited this as one of the reasons getting out of public service worked for them. If you’re characterised as lazy, incompetent and not worth the money you have somehow conned idiotic local politicians into paying you why would you hang around to be the public butt of taxpayer ill-humour.
Interestingly it wasn’t that my soon-to-be-former colleagues resented transparency they just thought it ought to go much further. How about publishing the pay details of staff over £58k in businesses whose turnover depends on public sector business. You could set a proportion here that was reasonable? Say 70%.
Hold on, you might say, these are private businesses. Well, they are. But their income comes predominantly from us taxpayers. So what’s the substantive difference?
And if the principle holds good for taxpayers why not extend the rights to shareholders in private enterprises. Excessive pay in the private sector means higher prices for consumers or lower returns for shareholders. Private sector pay is equally everyone’s business, isn’t it? If transparency on pay is a good thing let’s have more of it everywhere. Why not publish everyone’s tax returns? Wouldn’t that encourage an army of armchair tax inspectors? That will sort out avoidance and evasion.
Of course we’ve never been the sort of country that’s been comfortable with parading personal affairs – particularly financial ones – in public. Until now of course and only if you happen to be a public servant … perhaps there will be stocks or a version of Total Wipeout to help determine whether public servants are value for money or not.
Perhaps it is time to go after all …