Articles

Productivity as a vote winner

In Public sector, UK productivity, Uncategorized on April 9, 2010 by Tim Aikens

I’m back from the USA, the land of high productivity!  Election fever has started and all the main parties are spending a lot of time on ‘cuts’, potential public sector job losses and the need to be more efficient.  None of the leaders have so far faced up to the fact that there will be pain before pleasure if the UK is to fully recover from the recession.  Life will get harder before it gets easier.  A very large proportion of public sector spending is in wages – and therefore on people.  So, if you want to cut spending you will inevitably have to cut people. Fact. Full stop. So why don’t the politicians admit this – because it will lose votes.

As usual this denial is taking a very short-term political view. If we can cut public sector spending by making them more efficient and productive, there will be more money to spend and more demand, creating new jobs in the private sector. Yes there will be a lag, but to delay this is to extend the pain .  This is a bit like going to the dentist now to have a filling – or going later and having to have a tooth removed!  Not only is the pain greater at the end of the day, it also lasts longer! Naturally voters don’t want to hear the short-term bad news, so it is dressed up and hidden.  This then comes back to haunt the winning party later.  Having made no promises of ‘job losses’ they wring their hands and fight shy of doing what really needs to be done for fear of being seen to break promises.  And so history repeats itself.  The public sector remains immune from modernisation and politicians get away with doing nothing.

Regardless of whether you are in the public or private sector, doing nothing achieves nothing.  Taking action to improve productivity will always involve some pain.  The private sector has little option. The public sector needs strong political leadership to take action. In terms of track record the statistics speak for the past 10 years. Will the Tories fare any better?  Not unless they  step outside the normal approach of politicians and have productivity (don’t call it eliminating waste, that’s only a small part of the battle) as a cornerstone of future policy AND have the courage to act.

Will either party step up to the mark and really admit what needs to be done AND then do it?

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