Shocked but unawed by UK waste warriors

first_imgRelated posts: Shocked but unawed by UK waste warriorsOn 16 Mar 2004 in Military, Personnel Today Military strategists call it ‘shock and awe’ – an actual or threatenedassault of sufficient scale to demolish the enemy’s will to resist. The UK’spolitical parties seem to be adopting a similar strategy in their war on publicsector waste. A leaked report shows that the Government’s chief waste-buster, Sir PeterGershon, head of the Office of Government Commerce, has identified potentialannual efficiency savings of around £15bn, which would see at least 80,000 jobsshift from so-called administrative roles, including HR, to ‘frontline deliverypositions’ (News, 24 February). Not to be outdone, the Conservatives gotbusiness troubleshooter David James to make an estimate of waste, and hedescribed the £15bn target as ‘unambitious’. Confronting the waste-warriors is an army of public sector staff whoseco-operation is needed to generate any savings, but whose intransigence couldstand in the way of reform. The ‘shock and awe’ tactic of quoting big numbersof job losses seems so far to have been more successful at creating oppositionthan winning hearts and minds. Not surprisingly, the Public and CommercialServices union, which represents many of the staff directly in the firing line,has already responded by saying that job cuts on the scale said to be proposedby Gershon would be unacceptable. But the CIPD, which strongly supports movesto boost public sector efficiency, is also concerned by what might happen ifthe war on waste turns out to be simply one of attrition. Gershon, for example, claims the public sector typically spends two to threetimes more per HR worker than those in the private sector. He thereforerecommends shifting to a leaner, fitter, more professional and cross-functionalpool of HR staff, with those surplus to requirements retraining to becomespecialist nursing or teaching assistants elsewhere in the public sector. Whilethere is clearly room to boost the strategic role of public sector HR, a largecull of staff would hinder, rather than help, the wider aim of improving thequality of public services. How can it be right to distinguish HR roles from ‘frontline delivery’ ones?Gershon himself accepts that job losses caused by his efficiency drive wouldrequire special measures to mitigate the human and financial costs ofredundancy. But who is to handle this if not a well-resourced pool of HRprofessionals? And who will ensure that redundant employees are trained anddeveloped to be redeployed to the frontline in hospitals and schools, and beempowered, enabled and energised to deliver high-performance outcomes? Those preparing to go to war on waste should hold fire until they can answerthese key questions. By John Philpott, Chief economist, Chartered Institute of Personnel andDevelopment Comments are closed. center_img Previous Article Next Article Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a…last_img read more