The Futility Monster

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

Even Public Sector Workers Want Cuts

Posted by The Futility Monster on September 14, 2009 @ 12:30

Any recession that involved these things would be very welcome, and would remind me of my long, lost childhood.

Any recession that involved these things would be very welcome, and would remind me of my long, lost childhood.

Yesterday’s papers were filled with comment on a poll carried out by YouGov for the Policy Exchange think tank. Most of them focused on trust in government, but, as is always the case with these polls, there was a little more to it than they could fit in the headlines.

The full details of the poll are available directly from the Policy Exchange site.

I’ve had a quick look through the figures, and this question caught my eye:

Spending on public services such as schools, hospitals and the police has risen sharply in the past ten years. Overall, how much of the money do you think has been wasted on such things as bureaucracy paperwork and penpushing?

First of all, questions like this bug me. I don’t like to read too much into them, because they are explicitly negative and almost invite the respondent to join in the browbeating of government. The media have conditioned us to “hate” bureaucracy, as if to say that any money spent on administration must be bad. Perhaps they would like doctors and nurses sitting at computers making their own appointments, booking patients in, arranging rooms, etc…

But regardless, there is a widespread impression that vast swathes of government spending goes to feed the paperwork monster (my cousin, I think). This has been true for years and will continue to be so no matter which government is in power. There’s no doubt that fat can be trimmed from the civil service and local government, but the demands of the wider public for such efficiency savings are unrealistic and insatiable.

So this result is not surprising:

  • A lot: 62%
  • A fair amount: 22%

The next result, however, is more interesting. Instead of it being the result of the entire sample, it drilled down to only include those who worked for the public sector…

  • A lot: 59%
  • A fair amount: 25%

Overall, the same percentage in these two responses as there was for the entire sample.

In other words, the public sector workers, those who see the waste on a daily basis, are just as likely to be fed up with spending on needless things as the general population. One might have expected the public sector worker to be more defensive of their line of work. They have often been considered Labour’s “payroll vote”… but if even they are getting fed up, I think the battle is already lost.

Cuts are on their way. Even Lord Mandelson has admitted it today… in ways which might even excite the Labour Party, especially if he cancels Trident.

The final remaining political point of interest is this… when the public sector recession begins, will it be so severe that it does indeed cause the dreaded “double-dip”, W-shaped, recession?

If so, the Tories are going to have an extremely bumpy ride in their first couple of years in office.


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