Thursday, 4 March 2010

In praise of the public sector

The past week has seen me reflecting on a conversation with a friend who has also worked in the public and private sectors. When asked which I preferred I had to say that my heart still belongs to the public sector. The one real difference I have noticed between the public/private sector is that in the public sector I felt as if my opinion was valued and that there was an equality between staff, senior managers and front-line workers being all equal under the rules of the organisation.

My observations in the private sector remind me of something I once read; explaining the failure of a respected English football manager in Holland it pointed to the difference in footballing cultures. In England players expected to be instructed by the manager, in other words all authority was invested in that one figure, but in Holland players discussed issues with each other and came to collective solutions. Thus it is also with the public sector.

Is it any accident the Dutch are envied the world over for their footballing culture?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Did I get out of local government at the right time?

Sat in the comfort of my private sector call centre I came across a gem of a comment on the BBC news website (as you know the only website my employer allows non-supervisory staff to view - no doubt the Guardian is strictly off limits for it's revolutionary potential). The main article is one of a plethora about the subject du jour the impending dismemberment of the public sector (is that a bit grisly? - I'm currently reading a Japanese Horror/Thriller called 'out' so maybe thats why the metaphor springs to mind - we're constantly told it's going to be a brutal messy affair so maybe it's not too inappropriate after all.) Anyhow the comment itself is by a reader named 'departurelounge' and just seems to overlap nicely with my own experiences. The original can be seen here , it's the first comment at the bottom, but here is a copy and paste job:

1. At 2:06pm on 01 Mar 2010, departurelounge wrote:
Having recently left local government and soon to leave the country for good I've been reflecting on why my decade in local government seemed so fruitless. My time coincided with buzzwords like partnerships, visions, sustainable community strategies and the like. What tended to happen was that not very imaginative people drew up inconsequential plans which served only to distract attention from what could actually and ought to be done. Central government piled on initiatives and duties on local government to end child poverty, fuel poverty promote democracy etc when local authorities have very few levers to achieve these things (if any level of government can actually significanlty affect these thigns is another question). Local politicians werre either unwilling or unable to focus the minds of their administrative machines on improving services, controlling costs or really responding to local demands and the result is an expensive system tha, in practice, looks to central government for what to do next, not local people or their representatives. The frustrating thing is that local government isn't evne very good at doing the wrong thing, doing the bidding of central government.