The Futility Monster

He'll pointlessly derive more enjoyment out of your resources than you

In The Know, In A Knot

Posted by The Futility Monster on August 31, 2009 @ 09:32

Changing the public sector spending habits is going to be quite a battle...

Changing the public sector's spending habits is going to be quite a battle...

While I was caught up in my sudden rush of greenmoaning – a topic I will doubtless return to in the future – I didn’t get a chance to post about an initiative being launched by the Lib Dems.

It’s called In The Know, which, I’ve gotta say, is an appalling name. It always helps if a name actually tells you something about what it’s going to do. This project is about asking people “in the know” for ideas to cut the bill of the public sector on the taxpayer. So surely it should have been called something like Saving Taxpayers’ Money, and launched it in a blaze of publicity with Martin Lewis of I don’t know. I’m not paid to think up PR ideas…

Now… superficially it seems such a simple idea. Ask the public sector workers to trim the fat that they see every day. And, I assure you, they do see it. This is not just yet another of my posts whinging about how expenditure is going to have to be slashed and burned in the coming years.

No… it is too much of a coincidence that every public sector worker I’ve ever talked to – and there are many these days – will tell me about something that is a huge waste of money. From spending on specifically designed chairs for employees, to outrageously good, and unquestioned, sick leave. From jolly after jolly in first class to London and back, to a “go slow” work culture during the week so that overtime is offered, at 1.5 time or 1.75 time, at weekends.

This simply isn’t good enough. I know some parts of the public sector work incredibly hard and get poorly compensated. One such example is teaching assistants, whose pay is shocking for the responsibilities they have. Some say this is why the public sector has such good “other” perks to the job, like more holiday leave, more understanding for all time off, huge flexibility in working hours… to make up for bad pay.

I’m not “in the know” enough myself to know if this is true. But the examples of frittering taxpayers’ money are just numerous.

One might expect, then, that In The Know will be inundated with ideas for how to trim the fat. I even spoke to my dad, a civil servant at HEO grade, and said that he should submit some of his experiences to the site.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he will. And similarly, I don’t think many other people will either.

The prime reason is that In The Know has no incentives. In this age where capitalism is king, it is probably not enough to expect people to submit ideas which could save hundreds to thousands of pounds purely out of the goodness of their hearts.

There should have been some sort of competition attached. All genuine ideas submitted should be entered into a competition with several winners picked at random. On top of that, there should also have been a prize for the idea that would save the most amount of money.

Because there’s nothing ideological about this. There’s nothing stopping the Tories or even Labour launching a similar campaign within weeks. And if they launch theirs with incentives, the Lib Dems are going to look even more of an irrelevance than usual.

Once again, a good PR opportunity wasted.

But then again, I’m not paid to think up PR ideas.

I wish I was.

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