I have just been reading the article below on the end of council league tables.
It is amazing that the need to make the cuts required in the budget deficit may actually be leading to a more enlightened form of Public Sector management. Just a quick run through the article highlights the excessive checking and monitoring processes that have been placed on all of our public bodies over the last 13 years. The fact that it is suggested that one council has had to employ 90 full time staff at a cost of £3.7m, just to prepare information for central government, leaves one feeling slightly sick. How much more so for the poor people whose taxes have gone to fund that purely administrative function?
Over checking is a symptom of ‘Command & Control’ management. The unpalatable reality that says “We do not trust you.”
This level of inspection, information return and checking has, in the past, been seen as ‘Good Governance,’ but actually is one of the critical factors that destroys any governance.
There is no responsibility taken by the various departments for their own actions. Organisational efficiency is compromised by resourcing the huge bureaucratic machine required to comply with the scrutiny, and innovation is stifled.
So, it should come as a breath of fresh air to councils that this may be changing. However what comes next must not be a vacuum. Governance is a necessary process. If over checking is removed, there must be something to fill the gap. Responsibility must be taken by the individual bodies for their actions. There must be a sound governance structure put in place that assures and ensures the money is being well spent and the services provided add real value. This does not require ‘Big Brother’ looking at every last detail, or requiring endless reports, but it will need managing.
It is often the case that the people who do the work, know best how to deliver that work. Trust the councils to know their business, but give them the skills to ensure they are well governed. Targets that drive the wrong behaviour may be on the way out, let’s make sure what comes next doesn’t compound the problem.
Matthew Scott. Dip Management, Cert MCE.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the IIA.