Tuesday, 5 October 2010

New Public Management hits the rocks in Scotland

New Public Management - the means by which bloated central States hoped to keep control of power whilst cutting costs - is headed for the rocks everywhere from the NHS to local councils, and Scotland has provided the first iceberg. The fantasy that so-called 'Gershon' back-office savings would be substantial enough to maintain Whitehall's grip on governance without a noticeable reduction in the bromide of 'services' is being exposed as risible. 

The Child Benefit cuts proposals are an excellent example; Osborne rejected individual means testing because the administrative costs would have outweighed much of the savings made. Applying complex central rules that micro-manage the terms on which individuals interact with the State costs big bucks. 

And now South Lanarkshire Council is falling apart as councillors have lost all confidence in their fat-cat chief officers; both sides are calling in PWC in a sure sign that the dispute is going nuclear. The reality is that this will be played out in councils across the nation as they try to do the impossible - act both as Whitehall's local agents and slash costs. This is a circle that can't be squared. 

Over Labour's long term of misrule, Whitehall transformed councils into compliant agents of central government, transferring to them more and more functions that otherwise would be discharged through other agencies. Now councils are faced with massive spending cuts with no reduction at all in the range of micro-managed tasks that Whitehall expects them to carry out. It's going to be a car crash. 

1 comment:

Weekend Yachtsman said...

The Scottish Labour party has now admitted its plan to allow council tax to rise (presumably without limit), in order to remove the "gun which is pointed at the heads of local councils" - not literally, I am sorry to say.

With a bit of luck this will make then unelectable. A local authority with a metaphorical gun pointed at its head is in fact exactly what we want.

Of course, large numbers of Labour's client vote don't visibly pay the tax, so perhaps it won't make them unelectable at all; presumably that is the calculation.

I hate them all.