Friday, April 9, 2010

Does the City Council need a climate change officer?

Just been listening to our hopefully soon to be ex-Chancellor, discussing how impossible it is to find any efficiency savings in government - so he would prefer to go ahead with his national insurance rise that business leaders agree would do serious damage to the low paid and cost jobs rather than risk 'front line services'.

It is hard to believe that the person responsible for running the nation's finances has so little clue as to what has been going on in the public sector.

Whole areas of taxpayer funded activity are happening now that didn't exist even five years ago. (And taxpayers in this context includes both current taxpayers and people currently too young to pay tax, who will be taxed more to pay off Gordon Brown's catastrophic public debt). So I have a question for the Chancellor - perhaps I can call it the 'climate change officer test'.

If Cambridge City Council gets rid of its Climate Change Officer, and most of its related budget (totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, paid for by taxpayers), would this be 'an efficiency saving' or a 'cut to front line services'?

Don't get me wrong, climate change is a serious issue, that needs to be addressed with some major changes to how we generate, transport and store energy - I just don't see how the City Council employing someone to encourage self-flagellation over the damage we are probably doing to the planet can possibly help - it hasn't even persuaded the Green Party to turn the lights off in their campaign HQ!

Perhaps it is unfair to pick on one area. 'Partnership working' is another recent entry in public sector buzzword bingo - in theory, great, it means (I think) public bodies working together to try running services better. In practice, there are pots of money available from government for their pet projects, whole teams of project managers and press officers producing plans to demonstrate that the right boxes are being ticked to show people are working together - along with endless meetings and powerpoint presentations taking up vast amounts of time, and involving senior public sector employees, many of whom are now being paid over £100k a year to run a local Council.

And we haven't even got onto regional bodies - I get emails from some of them that I literally can't understand through all the public sector gobbledegook what they are even trying to add that is of public benefit. Many of these bodies could shut up shop tomorrow, and residents would be unaware they had gone. Some of these bodies, like the ones trying to force housing targets on us against local residents wishes (or in the case of Marshalls, against the wishes of the landowner!), need to be disbanded before they do any more damage. The list of things the state could stop doing to avoid doing any more damage is not short - for example ID cards and a big database to track everyone as they negotiate their way through public services, or the layers of managers and administrators in the NHS whose sole job - as a doctor friend of mine explained - is to try and stop doctors allocating resources according to their judgement of clinical need, and start allocating resources to meet whatever the latest announced NHS target is - the list goes on.

And my answer to my own question - neither - there are whole areas of activity where it is not the case that they are being performed inefficiently (although many undoubtedly are), or that they aren't a front line service (although in many cases nobody would care if the 'service' wasn't provided) its just obvious that the business of government has grown too large, not slightly, but massively - we can't afford it, and in many cases it isn't even helping people. It will be possible to stop many activities of government, whilst simultaneously tackling the debts Gordon Brown has built up, stopping the tax rises that will cost jobs and damage the economy, but also actually improving people's lives and opportunities as the state stops trying to control from Whitehall so many aspects of our lives. It is definitely time for change in Government.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Doesn't the conservative controlled county council have one of those?