Monday 16 May 2022

Axing those 91,000 Civil Servants

We learn that Johnson has packed off all his ministers to come up with bright ideas for saving a bob or two, thereby to forestall the the current and fast-growing economic crisis.  I'm sure we've all suffered fatuous "initiatives" like this at work, and had cause to marvel at the inanity of it all.  If your Chancellor doesn't have advisers of the calibre of a Keynes to come up with the broad macro-strokes that will be required, there's just no point.   We gather this particular "idea" is attributable to the execrable Rees-Mogg.  If BJ imagines saving a couple of billions by axing 91,000 civil servants will contribute anything meaningful, he's as stupid as anyone ever imagined.

(a) None of us want a bloated civil service, nor a bunch of workshy WFHers on the payroll; but unless by some miracle he can identify exactly those 91,000 people who are collectively & personally responsible (haha) for the global crisis we now face it will have purely disruptive consequences - and broad-spectrum ones at that - at exactly the time he's enough on his plate;

(b) I'm no expert on how public finance accounting works, but I don't see how it will save money for a good few years; 

(c) If he wants a diversionary tactic against voters noticing his own crass behaviour and manifest unfitness for office, there are many better ones, at infinitely less cost, to be had.  The only diverting that will happen will be of governmental time and energies.

As we know from covid, when the shit really hits the fan, the government cheerfully moves the whole nation onto the public payroll anyway.  The shit that's almost certainly going to happen between now and the next election makes this an entirely spurious 'policy'.




Bill Quango MP said...

Has all the hallmarks of Dominic Cummings initiative. Reduce the inevitable and pointless bloat of the bureaucracy by changing the work practices and working patterns. Economic management . Financial accountability and oversight and appoint the very best brains from every field, to take back control!
( from sir Humphrey)

One of those, “ if I were you, I would t start from here,” type of problems. Like reforming the tax code. Or the nhs. Or local government. It’s an impossible task. That will not produce the desired outcome in a reasonable timeframe, at a reasonable cost.

The half baked ideas are coming very quickly. As ND describes. This is Thick of it territory. No money and no workforce and no parliamentary time. But go and announce things that look like something. Buy some time. Won’t ever implement, but they will be as forgotten as the free lap top for all, and the big society, levelling up, in a few months time.

Cummings meant it. He really seemed to want to put the people who could, in power.
But, as we witnessed, he missed the vital step. Actual government authorised those teams. And, generally, paid for them.

Back in 2008/9 I recall somewhere we wrote about things the government actually could do. With plenty of time and commons votes, but no money. The austerity years.

Mostly, it was legal issues. Sort some of those never resolved divorce and access rights that were an issue. Rental market movers to homebuyers. 35 year fixed rate mortgages that were and were not a thing. Vehicle taxation and congestion zones. Parking charges. Wheel clampers. The bizarre train network ticketing system.
Food waste from labelling. And the thousands of pieces of legislation passed, that, having had their headline, have never been revisited to see if they were required, necessary, in use, or needed amendments.

Instead, during a shortage of labour, with broken working practice and centralised control, and ineffective structure and outdated requirements, the announcement is ‘ sack 91,000 to save money.’

That will somehow help with cost of living crisis by enabling even fewer people to access even fewer services and benefits.

Dismal thinking.
Dismal politics
Dismal targeting.

It’s such a poor idea, in its current form.

BlokeInBrum said...

I completely agree that Boris and Co. are blundering around in an attempt to be seen to be doing something - a rather futile attempt to preemptively deflect blame from the storm that's coming.

Having said that, with the State gobbling up an ever increasing share of the pie, surely now is as good a time as any to start to pare back the bloat that infests every sector of the Civil Service?

I'll leave a link here about how a series of marginal gains had a huge impact on the British Cycling team.

Before Covid, the Tories were spending our tax money like a sailor on shore leave.
They had every chance to reign in spending and lay down a fiscally resposible path for the future.
They chose to follow a ruinous path instead, chasing a chimaera with the stupid net zero agenda and a never ending series of causes which are contrary to the future wealth and wellbeing of British Citizens.

Sadly, the opposition parties have failed to step up to the plate and hold the Conservatives feet to the fire, being cut from the same cloth.

Until the electorate stop voting for these idiots, we will simply get more of the same.

Perhaps, after a period of real hardship we will ditch these losers and pay closer scrutiny to the people who wish to replace them.

Don Cox said...

How many civil servants retire each year ?

This process of reduction to 2016 numbers is supposed to take three years, so it might be covered by simply not replacing those who retire.


dearieme said...

"manifest unfitness for office": alas, we may be in a world where he's the least unfit in the H of C.

I suspect not - but it's conceivably true.

Anonymous said...

"... like a sailor on shore leave... "

Objection, my Lord!

Sailors on shore leave stop spending when there is no money left.

This lot don't.

dustybloke said...

We’re all socialists now. Lie back and bear it. You can’t enjoy it…

E-K said...

These cuts would be natural wastage. No Thatcher vs Scargill moment.

Yes. The public sector (including mine) needs cutting back to bring it closer to the private sector, otherwise we do indeed become a socialist state.

E-K said...

Off topic but a great comment:

" I had a customer who asked if my products were 'organic'.
I replied 'Of course not'.
Why would someone want plants to be 'organic' - that is not vaccinated or protected by man-made and synthesised chemicals - when they have just stabbed man-made and synthesised chemicals into their own bloodstream.

These 'inorganic' vaccines are also Genetically Modified (GM)!
However we currently ban GM from the UK and european farming industry but gaily inject GM into our own bodies and then ask for 'organic' farming while injecting 'inorganic' into ourselves.

Doesn't add up!
Time to chuck the organic and anti-GM anti-science religion in the dustbin! Unless you are going to not be a hypocrite and thus be homeopathic and refuse all modern medicine. "

Elby the Beserk said...

Well they could sack all the Diversity non-job staff for starters. For years I thought they were a legal requirement of the Equality (For Some) Act, but apparently not. Utterly unproductive in every sense of the word.

And while they are at it, claw back the London weighting payments from those WFHers entitled to it. Nice holiday. Nice new car.

Whatever they do, they'll mess it up. That I DO know.

Elby the Beserk said...

@BlokeInBrum said...

Johnson's policy on every5thing is throw other peoples money at whatever.

I think it's called "levelling down".

Elby the Beserk said...

"(b) I'm no expert on how public finance accounting works"

Same as Johnson and co., then, Nick. Gordon Brown was of course the acknowledged world expert on this matter. Otherwise known as pissing away other people's money.

E-K said...

Remembering that this has all been brought to a head by a) the gargantuan pandemic debts and b) WFH liberties from the panicked pandemic response.

There is now a glaringly obvious two tiered society. The Gold Plated class and the serfs bringing them stuff.

The BofE talks of catastrophic food price rises, a cost of living crisis not seen for generations. We have war in Europe. I predicted these things.

As soon as we knew it was such a specific disease we should have done Sweden .

We have Boris about to sign us up to the WHO Treaty which will ensure that we are put in masks and lockdowns without any democratic accountability for them. This means no control of our own economies.

Anonymous said...

For years I thought they were a legal requirement of the Equality (For Some) Act, but apparently not.

@Elby. Correct on the face of it but their job is mainly legal safeguarding so that when the claims hit companies there is a paper trail to take to court.

Some legislation is simply there to generate work for lawyers, barristers and QCs.

We could cut out some of the nonsense by removing legal services from the calculation of GDP - that idol we are all chasing. Or by capping the fees as Raab is doing for criminal work.

Anonymous said...

OT, but

is interesting in what it shows about NATO support for the war in Ukraine

Most aircraft in order - US, then UK, then Italy and Holland

France and Germany conspicuous by their absence. I think I've seen one Dutch EW plane take off from Cologne.

ATM there's one Dutch tanker (MMF18) circling eastern Poland, one US tanker with no callsign circling eastern Romania (left from Bucharest), can't see anything for them to refuel, I assume NATO aren't flying "dark" as the area is on major route to UAE airports.

Anonymous said...

And there's a DHL 747 on the runway at Rzeszow, which seems to be the main import place for Ukraine hardware.

Doubtless a large Amazon delivery ;-)

Anonymous said...

In fact the DHL plane seems to have come to Poland straight from Dover AFB in Delaware. Amazing thing, the Web.

Caeser Hēméra said...

As someone who has WFH on many occasions over the last two decades, I tend to find the negative comments to be more reflective of how much I could trust the commentator rather than the commented upon...

I'm currently managing a WFH team scattered across the UK, and after a few teething issues whilst I figured out skill levels, it's been fine. The communication issues have been more down to personality rather than proximity.

There was an "overwork" issue, where someone decided to ride two horses, but they were not very clever about it and that was resolved.

I can even remotely sit next to Nellie, with the added benefit of muting, so if they're being a little stupid I don't need to up my blood pressure by keeping my opinion to myself, but can mute myself and have an enervating little swear session.

And as long my team hit the targets I give them, I'm happy. If they can do a weeks worth of work in three days to the expected standard, I really don't care if they spend the next two days walking the dogs, just so long as they check their messages within a reasonable time if I want to know something.

I want concrete and productive results, not presenteeism. I've dealt with enough micro managers to know mostly they're just about as useful as tits on a bull.

And maybe that's the trick with the Civil Servants, start demanding concrete results. They meet them, fine, they don't, start marking cards.

WFH is a great opportunity to see what people can actually deliver - it's moving in the direction from buying a block of time from people, to buying their skills, which gives you a much better metric of how productive someone is.

Nick Drew said...

CH - always good to read detailed first hand accounts from different perspectives

my angle is commercial and I seriously cannot imagine building the same kind of productive 1-1 relationships (that are critical from time to time) any other way that the occasional face-to-face. This is written notwithstanding my having completed 2 or 3 satisfactory & substantial deals during lockdown with people I've (still) never met

I generally assume there are similar dynamics in most disciplines, though I might be wrong. But, e.g., my son (who is in IT and actually specialises in remote comms: he was doing so long before covid) is changing employer right now: his new org assures him he can WFH but I have strongly advised getting a purposeful & decent amount of facetime with his new team before any thought of falling back on WFH

maybe I'm wrong but that's my well-intended parental advice anyway: he can take it for what it's worth

Caeser Hēméra said...

@ND - you do get a different relationship remote than you do face to face, the reduced body language clues tends to make it easier to adopt a more antagonistic stance.

I'm not a WFH purist, and I very much support personal interaction, I just tend to roll my eyes when productivity gets questioned as in-office productivity was hitting all time lows prior to the pandemic. I go back 10 years, and I could assume 4.5 productive hours out of 7.5 - 8, by Christmas 2020 I'd revised it down to three due to how meetings and ceremonies were being handled, as well as smartphones now making the company toilet a place to do personal business of a different nature than Mr Crapper intended.

I'm actually seeing it inch upwards again with WFH.

Plus, pretty much everyone who has returned to the office accepts those days are mostly social occasions now. That will probably change in time, but businesses need to start evaluating hybrid working on a project and team level rather than a company level.

A team of contractors on a 6 month project can be expected to just get on with it, a team of perms who'll be working together for the next 12 months+ need to have some in-person face time, much like you've advised your son, and how much will vary on project to project.

There are a few modern military practices that would work rather nicely (e.g. METL) in that regard, but sadly a lot of businesses think importing military ideas consist of hiring someone to bug out at staff and then wonder why all the best ones start leaving.

lilith said...

Both my siblings work from home (financial software) but started out in the office. My sister for eleven years and my brother for nearly four, so they were experts when lockdown was utilised. I think if the public sector could get the productivity better it's not all bad. The trouble is....NOTHING WORKS getting the pen pushers back to the office seems one way of getting a grip.

E-K said...

CH @ 10.55

I was referring to the Civil Service rather than those WFH in the private sector.

There is clearly a go-slow going on and that is why the Government announcement has led us to this post.