Saturday, 21 August 2010

The problem with local government

Last weekend saw me have a very enjoyable meet up with some of my former colleagues. It was great to catch up with some people after almost a year. As I finished off my first pint I also managed to come up with a theory about just what is wrong with local government....

So many people are just unhappy in their jobs. This may not be a particularly unusual statement. Very few people I've met either in the public sector or private sector profess to love their jobs, but there is a much deeper sense of low morale and of feeling trapped in local government - I should know I spent a couple of years there myself.

The reason for this is simply the increment system. If you get appointed to a role at say 15k per year you will receive a £500 per year pay-rise automatically for the first few years, then for another few years you need to prove you have achieved set objectives before getting your raise. This continues until you reach the upper limit for that grade at which point you can continue no more, at 15k this would typically be about 19-20k.

The advantage of the system is that it rewards experience and loyalty. The disadvantage is that it can become for many a gilded cage as it makes a sideways move to another team, authority or even a move out of the organisation particularly expensive. I once worked with a very experienced care manager who confessed she would love to work in a mental health team but, after many years in her current post was at the top of her grade so such a sideways move would mean a fairly drastic pay-cut.

This all leads to a time-serving mentality with the attendant stagnation and resentment from unfulfilled dreams. People have a disincentive to move and develop so remain in post long after their enthusiasm for the job has faded. Their incumbency also prevents a new person with fresh enthusiasm taking up that post.

Experience of course is a good thing, especially in a field like social care where an experienced member of staff is invaluable, but it's a question of balance in a team. Too many time-servers and the team suffers.

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