Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


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What are the Government afraid of?

Coalitions are, in my opinion, weak forms of Government. The stronger partner is always scared the junior partner will leave them and thereby removing the Government’s majority. It means there is never a policy which is adhered to during its passage into law, as concessions are made to the junior partner, and leadership is often weak.

And this is the case with public pensions, which I have blogged on before. Today the Liberal Democrat and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander has buckled under the threat of a General Strike and made the gold plated extremely generous public sector pensions even better.
No one who is due to retire in the next ten years will see a change in their pension. And teachers and nurses (remember not all are angels) will actually see an increase in their career average schemes (which will, rightly, replace final salary schemes). As Nick Robinson reports on his blog a teacher with a final salary of £37,800 would receive a pension of £25,200 each year, up from the £19,100 they would earn under their current scheme, whilst a nurse, with a final salary of £34,200, would get an annual pension of £22,800 rather than the £17,300 they would have been entitled to under the old scheme. Compare this to those retiring in the private sector on a similar salary and you are looking at an annual pension of around £8,000 to £10,000.
Naturally, the unions say the General Strike will still go ahead anyway. How can someone wake in the morning, do as little work as possible and still demand a pension which only those who are Directors in a large private company could expect to retire on? 
This is how the Institute of Directors has reacted to the Government climbdown:

“It is not reasonable that private sector employees who will never enjoy defined benefit pensions should continue to subsidise public sector workers insulated from economic reality.” 

It’s time the public sector woke up and smelt the coffee.


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"I don’t do blame"

These are the words of Sharon Shoesmith, the woman who oversaw the children’s services department at Haringey Council that allowed Baby Peter to die.  This post’s headline also sums up the culture that exists in the public sector which leads to hospital doctors having to prescribe food and water because they cannot trust the nurses to deliver it, as revealed in last week’s Care Quality Commission reports on NHS Care, and why rail commuters are left on stationary packed trains for hours on end in conditions it would be illegal to transport animals by.

I believe the main reason for the above taking place is not because of some systemic problem or infrastructure “serving” the workers but because no person is held accountable for their failings and mistakes.  Performance Management is a meaningless concept in the public sector which merely pays lip service to HR and is not used to actually improve the performance of the individuals who are treating our elderly or maintaining the railway tracks and signalling (i.e. Network Rail), let alone sack them for incompetence.
The systems, processes and targets put in place in, for instance, hospitals has stripped the need for compassion out of nurses and doctors at a corporate level and this needs urgent reform.  But it requires human beings to voluntarily submit wholesale to acting like a drone – some people find this easier than others and it tends to be those people who, as a nurse, won’t help an elderly patient out of bed to use a commode (as happened at Ipswich Hospital).

There are many good nurses, doctors, teachers, engineers and managers in our public services but there are, unfortunately, a sizeable number who the public have lost trust in.  This is never more so than in the NHS.  Speak to people with elderly parents in hospitals and they will tell you horror stories regarding how some nurses treated their mum or dad.

It pains me to say it but politicians are to blame for this, not for the knee-jerk socialist reason that “all Tories are evil” but because politicians of all Parties offer such unequivocal praise for NHS staff. You always hear about “hard working nurses” but never about the “incompentent nurses” which need to be rooted out of the organisation.  If, as an incompetent nurse or GP, you always hear your politcial masters saying how wonderful you are, you eventually start to think you can walk on water.  And at that point, the need to do a good job (for risk of losing that job) goes out the window and then you end up with situations where the standard of care on our hospital wards is so bad it is actually illegal.

Public sector workers who make a positive difference in our schools and hospitals and on our railways are let down by a culture which allows poor performance of their colleagues to go unpunished.  This needs to be uprooted by empowering managers to deal with poor performance and incompentence.  The only way this is going to happen is if the politicians provide their public backing and HR departments back their managers.  The vested interests will rear up and fight very hard but with political leadership this can be defeated.  Then the public, who let’s not forget pay for every penny spent on wages, equipment, nice hotels etc, might start to receive a better service, which they rightly deserve.