Friday, 24 September 2010

A Quango cull doesn't dismantle the central State

As encouraging as the leaked news of the Quango cull is, it leaves intact the control structures of the central State, no power is devolved from the centre to the edges and nothing done to reinvigorate our democracy. Whitehall continues to hold its steely grip on the reins of power and the political class at the Metropolitan centre are undiminished. The Leviathan is just losing a bit of weight, not having its limbs hacked off. 

In fact, some abolitions will be retrograde - the functions of the Quango will return directly to Whitehall. Some have been reprieved outright; the test applied, you see, is whether the quango has been shown to perform a technical role that cannot be better discharged by government, or sufficiently demonstrated their independence from government, i.e. from tax funding. Not whether the technical role is necessary at all, or can better be discharged locally, or whether the function needs to be discharged at a national level.

Take the old Construction Industry Training Board. The problem that gave rise to it was that all construction firms wanted to hire skilled trades, but that if the costs of training were borne by firms voluntarily, there was nothing to stop 'free riders' gaining competitive advantage by not spending at all on training and poaching skilled trades from others. So a compulsory levy was introduced to pay for training with the benefits available equally to all. The option of skilled trades paying for their own training was disliked by both the central State, who liked the idea of manpower planning, and construction firms, who didn't want to create an independent cohort of skilled trades that could bargain for rewards. And so it remains today; unless a trainee gains a place with a construction firm, unless they demonstrate willingness to 'normalise', employment is barred to them. 

In fact, in a free market, firms would do better economically to offload the costs of training to the individual trades; ten thousand Polish brickies wouldn't disagree. 

1 comment:

William Gruff said...

What is the Polish for The Bricklayers' Guild, or The Guild of Bricklayers?

It's always struck me as odd that anyone should be taught a manual skill in a classroom, as I was. I could have been gainfully employed (from my point of view, and the taxpayers', rather than that of any probable employers) in my chosen occupation at the age of sixteen, instead of twenty four, and thereby gained eight years' invaluable commercial experience, one sixteenth of which might have stood me in better stead than the (usually favourably received) portfolio I presented at innumerable interviews, as was pointed out to me, in other words, at so many of those interviews.

That notwithstanding, bondage in an apprenticeship until the age of one's majority, at twenty one, whether or not it is necessary to acquire the requisite skills for any occupation, might be the answer to many of our current social ills.