Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Redundancy as Goal?

The politicians are not telling us about the cuts in public services that will be necessary. That's OK as I will argue that (1) because a lot of public services/offices can indeed be cut and (2) public/civil servants should work towards the goal of redundancy.

I have lost count of the number of letters we have received that tell us: you are invited to make an appointment to see your consultant; this is to confirm that we have cancelled your appointment with your consultant; this is to confirm that your new appointment with your consultant is ...; please complete the survey about your experience of seeing the GP*; please be notified that ballot papers for the local election will be sent out soon; please be informed that ballot papers for the General Election will be sent out soon; ad infinitum.

Does anyone seriously think that the people sending these letters out actually do make a difference to our illness/well-being or "front-line services"? What would be the effect of making this bunch redundant?

When there are people sending out survey forms, there are people collecting survey results, there are people analyzing survey results and there are people ticking boxes to say such and such government target has been reached or missed. Does it make a real difference to how we are treated at the hospital? (*And somehow these survey questionnaires never ask the most significant questions like how difficult it is to make a GP appointment these days if you played by the rules.)

Think about the "transport advisors" and the layer upon layer of "co-ordinators", "outreach workers" and "area managers" for this kind of political correctness and that kind of equality (but not other kinds). In today's newspaper (won't say which one) a local council advertises for a "Customer Insight Officer" (£38-£40K), "Neighbourhood Engagement Officer" (£32-£35K), "Business Development Officer" (£38-40K) and "Communications Officer" (£35-£38K) for the "not-for profit company controlled by the council" which runs their council housing.

Their duties range from: "to hold expertise for the organisation in resident engagement, involvement and community development" and "working in collaboration with partners and colleagues to implement service improvement initiatives across all areas of the business" to "championing an organisational culture that understands and celebrates diversity" and "produce a full range of external and internal communications material to meet the needs of residents, staff and partner and external agencies".

I tell you I worked for a not-for-profit organization and my colleagues and I had salaries which were no where close to those figures. The fact that a "not-for-profit company" was formed by the council (with an additional layer of governance with a board of directors and staff, etc) also suggests a clever way of disguising how the money flows through the system. And what EXACTLY do these people do instead of fixing broken taps and street lamps?

I say, cut their jobs and give the money to the schools and nurses and police and people who actually make a difference.

The goal of a public servant should NOT (never, EVER) be to move up the ranks, make more and more money and expanding one's department and increasing their departmental/sectional budget year on year. Their goal should be to work towards redundancy, ie work themselves out of a job.

Why are more and more children being taken into care? Why are schools failing? Why are the needs of sections of vulnerable people in society not being met?

Can any one deny that public/civil servants have vested interests to ensure that problems that they are employed to deal with remain entrenched in society?

If I manage to clear all the cases of children needing care, then I would be out of a job, won't I?

But if it says on my CV that I managed a department with x budget and z number of staff, then I can in my next job expect to manage x+y budget and z+n number of staff, and correspondingly my salary will increase as it shows I am capable of being a good manager. No?

A good manager within the civil service perhaps, one who knows how to tick boxes, but not a visionary, not a mover nor a shaker.

A public servant, and in particular senior civil servants, should be able to use the data, resources and experience he/she has to propose changes to a flawed system to eradicate the issues that give rise to, say, the need for child protection, homelessness, truancy, etc. Ticking boxes and following procedures do not a good manager make.

They should be able to provide ministers with the wherewithal to make changes to policies so that there isn't a continuous and vicious circle of teenage pregnancies, reoffending, obesity and so on. Instead many are carving out kingdoms of their own. The longer their "client list" the more dosh they get from us taxpayers. The larger their department, the larger their budget, the higher their salary.

Is that right?

CEOs are given huge salaries on the basis that they have to deal with huge budgets. It is logical. No?

But these salaries do not generate profits. CEOs could, might, make efficiency savings, but these are not the same as profits. It is not like I could choose not to pay my council tax, or pay it to another council. Fact is I would have generated more profit than most CEOs of local councils. It is not difficult -- at all! -- to spend money you have not earned. Ask my son!

I do not pay my son huge amounts to spend my money, why should these CEOs get away with their inflated salaries?

At what age do these civil servants retire and at what salary?

If at 35 someone is able to resolve the issue he/she is employed to fight then he/she deserves to retire at full pension, and not wait till he is 65 or whatever. Then only do civil servants have the incentive to be made redundant.

Where would the civil servants who are made redundant go? They could find another job, start a business, MAKE something to sell instead of shifting my tax money about.

If you say "but they do not have the skills to do this" or "that", then it shows our education has failed. If our education system has failed, why must my tax money be used to keep propping up a failing system?

You say, "It's difficult to start a business, there's too much red tape." Well, there you go, these are the same people who put the red tape in place. Case closed.

I myself am staring redundancy in the face. Not as a high-flying executive in some multi-national or professional partnership, etc. But as a mother.

According to his little red book, my son will be my height when he is 12 and three-quarters, come Christmas 2012.

If I have not instilled in him all my values (particularly of discipline and tidiness) by the time he is my height, I have no chance of doing any better after that. See earlier post.

It is because of this very conscious awareness of the limited time I have that I do what I do.

Civil service jobs apart from those that makes a real difference to one's health, civil protection (police, fire service), and education, should not be open-ended jobs. We must all work towards redundancy.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Being a Grandparent

My son (coming up ten years old) once explained to me why being a grandparent is such a wonderful thing.

"All that happens is you get a phone call that says, 'Congratulations! You're a grandparent!' with none of that carrying a baby around for nine months."

Out of the mouths of babes, eh?

He's been away on a school trip and we noticed that he is not keen to make contact on the phone. Conclusion: our son is growing up.

That is good. That is very good.

(I am the one who must get used to him being away from me. )

Still a part of me thinks he is never going to understand what it feels to be a parent, UNTIL he becomes a parent himself (ie when I get to be a grandparent).

However where children are concerned, you know how you keep telling them that childhood is the best time of one's lives when we could live without a care (at least it was when I was growing up). We tell them school days are the best days because we did not have to be burdened with the worries of earning a living.

Do they believe us? Would they ever understand?

My major objective these days (and for the past decade) has been to make a childhood for my son that he could look back and say, "Those were really some of the happiest times of my life."

Am I succeeding? You would have to check back in about 15 years' time, I guess.

Last night as I went to bed I just kept thinking how nice it would be if my husband and I would get to see a first grandchild at least. As we married late and one of us has a chronic (incurable) disease, it is quite a hope to cling to.


I would like to see my son when he is able to view the world as a parent. And then only would he understand what his parents had gone through. I think we can look forward to some really great conversations which are both between parent and child and between parent and parent at the same time.

He hates it when the Luther Vandross song with the poignant words "to dance with my father again" comes on radio. (I suspect deep down he is worried about losing his father.)

Sometimes I also share that sentiment of the songwriter: O! if only I had "another chance" to talk with my own father again, not just as a daughter, but as a fellow parent as well, how wonderful that would be.

And I suspect my husband would also love to be able to do that with his own father. We did not get a chance to tell him that another grandchild was on the way when he was taken away from us without any warning.

Yes, as we approach Father's Day my eyes well up thinking of the grandparents my son does not have, I can only hope to be a grandparent myself. Strange!