Cut to the bone? The public wasteline is still expanding.

The first thing you do when trying to control spending in a near bankrupt company is to stop hiring people.

Looking at the Jobs pages this week-end, the public sector still thinks it can hire as many as it likes to do as little as it likes.

Take the case of Aberdeen City Council. They advertised for a:

Director of Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure £107,000
Project Director, Economic and Business Development £90,000
Director of Housing and Environment £107,000
Director of Corporate Governance £107,000
Director of Education £107,000

That’s more than £500,000 in salaries, before you add on the NI, benefits in kind, pensions, secretaries and the rest and before they put in their expenses. You could certainly take 20% off that lot by amalgmating two of the posts into one. The first three will be tripping over each other one many a project and making it slower and dearer. Can’t they make do with the people they have already got, promoting the odd one if they need to fill a major post?

Or take the case of the Environment Agency. They are advertising for regional Directors on packages of up to £110,000 each. They dare not tell us how many they want to hire. Most of us would like them to spend the money they have earmarked for that on some work to ease the flooding problems. Let’s have none of these.

At a time when manufacturing comapnies in the West Midlands are having to sack many people to be able to pay the rates and the other mandatory taxes, is it a good idea for Advantage West Midlands to be recruiting a Corporate Director Resources for a six figure salary, or for the West Midlands Manufacturing Advisory Service to be offering more than £90,000 a year for a Chief Executive? Manufacturing companies need orders, not advice paid for out of ever rising taxes. Stop this waste.

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34 Comments

  1. Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    This scandalous waste of our money seems to me to be just as bad as the total abuse of MPs expenses. It could even be based on a cynical exploitation of the people appointed so that they vote Labour in the distant election.
    The fact is that the appointees simply put a stop to any form of human activity. This manifests itself as political correctness or elfin safety.
    We are turning to the Conservatives to have a little backbone and trim it all up quite energetically.

  2. Ian Jones
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:47 am | Permalink

    As with all these council jobs you know that these aren’t being advertised to outsiders. This is all about giving huge pay rises to your fellow council employees by creating new roles for them to go into and suck dry the taxpayer.

    Public sector pay is totally out of control, when you factor in the pension they are paid 30-40% above a private sector employee especially in the regions as they base their pay on London!

  3. Colin D.
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    I note the grand names assigned to these jobs – ie ‘Director’. I ask myself who determines what salary is appropriate for the job. I suspect that he who creates the job feels that the higher the salary that is offered, the more chance of his own salary being enhanced. For starters, I reckon all these jobs – if real jobs they be – should be advertised at half the salary.
    There is a huge disconnect between salaries advertised for jobs requiring technical expertise and these ‘director’ non jobs. A few days ago, The Telegraph advertised a job for being in charge of the maintenance, standards etc of ALL the Secret Service building in the UK including the MI6 Thames side one in London. The list of skills and experience specified was as long as your arm. Salary? …about £55K! Next to it was a series of jobs relating to farm animal welfare. Salary? Almost the same.
    The public sector is creating ‘jobs’ galore at crazy salaries, probably with big bonuses if you do a half decent job – and undermining the remuneration structure and incentive of those who have the invaluable technical skills that this country REALLY needs.

  4. Simon D
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    The elephant in the room is that there has been a huge rise in salaries and numbers in the public sector. It has gone almost un-reported by the media and has not been debated in Parliament. Surely world-leading organisations like the BBC should have been “exposing” what has been happening were it not for the fact that the BBC itself is a text book example of the problem.

    The issue is easily summarised: (1) too many un-necessary tasks performed by public organisations (2) too many people (3) individuals paid too much and (4) gold-plated pension schemes. Practically everybody in the public sector (I include MPs) has a vested interest in the system. It has been a smart move on the part of the public sector to emulate the strategies and structures of industry and the banks. Every self respecting local government officer now has a performance-related bonus.

    You would be astonished how much you can cut without it having any serious effect on essential services. Getting this over to the public will be a top priority for the Conservatives in the election campaign.

    You say “stop the waste”. Who is going to do it? The media doesn’t care. The Government sees the public sector as its client vote. The public does not understand what it going on. Parliament won’t debate it. Three cheers for democracy.

    • Janet Child
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      “The public does not understand what is going on”

      You have hit the nail on the head exactly. Some years ago I had a middle management job with a well-known charity originally started by women. Service delivery was provided by volunteers (so no staffing costs) many of whom worked in very shabby and inadequate conditions and were of the “make do and mend” generation. Meanwhile top management were raking in the income in generous salaries and benefits (expenses, car allowance etc).

      The set-up there was a mini version of what happens everywhere and has been going on for years. The people in management positions see expenses and big salaries as their right. The people at the bottom don’t see or experience that kind of lifestyle or the waste on “jollies” etc.

      Even the adverts for those jobs are a terrific waste of money. Most people would be aghast at the price of placing such an advert.

  5. DavidB
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I think the posts have to be advertised. Allowing promotion from within would not be transparent, and would encourage the worst of nepotistic appointment which a Rotten Burgh could muster. Aberdeen is a funny council. Liebour ran it ( into the ground ) for years, but I believe the administration changed hands last time out. Since years of one party rule will have seen the supporters of one party pack the managerial layers, it may be a better idea to find people from somewhere else to man the giddy heights.

    There’s every likelihood that an internal candidate will be appointed to some or all of the posts anyway. But advertising them does make sense. Whether any of the posts is needed is another matter, upon which I tend to agree with your own opinion sir. And bearing in mind that the particular council had savage spending cuts last year to programs for disabled people, I seem to recall, perhaps they should look at their management structure very very closely.

    • Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think they do have to be advertised if they don’t have to exist.

  6. Bob
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    The Tories should make it clear to the electorate that this kind of waste will be cut as a priority. See how these so called “directors” make out in the real jobs market.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    The failure and reluctance of public authorities to face up to the economic realities, that those, from whom they extract the money that they spend (squander), cannot avoid, seems to have been a constant throughout my lifetime. Will it ever change? I doubt it, as the people in these organisations see their role to build their own empires with scant regard for those who pay the piper.

  8. witteringsfromwitney
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Well said Mr. Redwood – needless to say, spot on yet again!

    In answer to Colin D. – take a look at SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives), what in effect is a quango set up by Local Authority CE’s as a ‘recruitment and consultancy’ organisation to advise on ‘senior’ pay for local authority employees.

  9. sm
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I have found NHS jobs via agencies mandate NHS experience eg minimum 3 months (not equivalent experience). This just restricts the private sector candidates able & willing to do the jobs, probably for less money. How can you ensure real fair competitions for roles? There is a dearth of jobs, there is no need to offer salaries at multiple of average wages, until we are out of this economic crunch.

  10. Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Think leads and lags. Back in the 1970’s the imbroglio of of 1976-1977 only started to impact on local government up to two years later, the Winter of Discontent and all that. The sorting out rolled on into the early 1980’s with further painful adjustments. A lot of this was a correction for the costs and the expansion of staffing etc. after the reorganisation of 1974. On the whole it was a mess, because local authorities had created an unstable situation which was compounded by political extremism on the Left. So, wait for it, wait for it……………..

  11. Olaf
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    It’s more likely that these are existing posts that have have revisions to roles and responsibilities and or job titles. That might well force an advertisement of jobs that already have post holders.
    So this won’t be £500k of extra money or 5 new posts.
    I’m not commenting on the levels of renumeration, that’s a whole other kettle of fish

    This sort of advertisement is a big waste of money in public services.

  12. GHS
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The Aberdeen Council is even worse than normal. They have a huge budget deficit and are cutting services yet they continue to dish out grossly inflated salaries to what are basically non-jobs.

  13. Robin
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Argument and authority is a very interesting thing. Argument is not physical, yet it can force us to behave in a different way. When a Government loses a key argument we must rely on the authority of the people to remove those in Government making the losing argument. The authority of the people has a higher precedent than the authority of Parliament.

    The economic authority of the current Government has been lost due to hypocrisy. The Government Ministers have lost authority when they fail to understand the consequences of their own expenses. As higher taxes and spending has been the economic argument to get out of recession then the Government no longer has the authority to implement their own policy to get out of a recession.

    There is a second thread where the Government have also lost authority with regard to their core socio-political goal of fairness in taxation. How can the argument that “higher tax is fair” be carried by a party that is stuffed full of individuals making unreasonable tax-free expense claims. People who cannot judge the fairness of their own expenses have no legitimacy judging or executing higher taxes.

    For both reasons this Government has lost the authority to govern in the eyes of the British people and must now call an election.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid what we want, and what the EU wants, are two entirely different things.

      We want to get shot of this government as soon as possible; but the EU wants it to remain in place until after the Irish have voted again on the Lisbon Treaty, almost certainly in October.

      Which really means that we’re stuck with it until next spring.

  14. Ashley T
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I agree that on the face of it things look shameless. But I would like to point out that someone in a senior management position for a similar private business would probably get a lot, lot more. People often complain about mismanagement, but if no-one wants to invest in people, what is to be expected?

    As a result, I fail to see how the idea of cutting public spending (i.e. health, education etc.) by 20% will help. Of course the economy is in a mess, a global recession coupled with gross banking mismanagement (of which both Labour and the Conservatives must take some blame) has left this country in a mess. But is this the fault of public servants, or MPs and poor Banking management?

    I will be totally honest. I am a public servant: I am a University Lecturer. I am sure that many people think we sit around wearing mortar boards all day, with teaching consisting of nothing but a one hour lecture made up on the spot. I can only speak from my own experience, and I have to work 7 days a week most weeks of the year to keep up with my workload and the pressures put upon me. If I want to do some research, most of the time I have to pay for the cost of it out of my own wages (to the point that I now have a very large overdraft!). But, although the hours and pressure are ludicrous, I love doing my job and I love doing my research. To teach students about something you are fascinated by is a rare opportunity. If the only way for me to do it is for me to pay for it myself, then I guess that is the economic cost of me wanting to be the best in the world in my subject.

    I am sure you can understand, therefore, why the MPs expenses row is sickening to someone who has to get into debt to do their own job to the best of their abilities. The suggestion that public services should be cut even more (it is already much lower than private business) is outrageous coming from MPs who use Taxpayer’s money to pay off the interest on the mortgages of their second home. Especially when many live a commutable distance away from London…

    Reply: Please look at what I wrote. It was the public who said they wanted 20% cuts. I said I thought politicians would go for less than this, and suggested 10% could be done without cutting nurses, teachers, doctors etc.

    • Adam Collyer
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      It is certainly true that universities are struggling to teach all their students with the funding they have. But that is a consequence of the massive increase in student numbers over the last few years. When I went to university around 10% of people went there; now the figure is over 40% and the government is trying to get it to 50%. Presumably funding has not increased by a similar amount! If we want to educate students properly without putting unfair pressures on university staff, shouldn’t we be cutting student numbers?

    • DrB
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

      I, too, am a public employee (Hospital Consultant) and I have no doubt that a 10% reduction in NHS spending is easily achievable and much needed. The problem will be that when confronted with an order to reduce spending the “managers” will, as far as possible, ensure that the front line troops are hit and that the blame is directed at the Government. You cannot rely on the professionalism of this managerial class.

  15. Posted May 11, 2009 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    You may not have known it but Aberdeen Council is (financially troubled -ed) with a £50 million deficit.

    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/aberdeen?articleid=4296507

    It was run by Labour & LibDims & is now run by SNP & LibDims.

  16. Posted May 11, 2009 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    A near bankrupt company doesn’t just stop hiring, it’s also usually the time to call in the receivers. In the case of UK plc the receivers are the rest of us and the process is known as ‘an election.’

  17. Robert
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    What is so hard about a policy of “no new jobs until further notice in government”

    If it was applied for 12 months it is amazing how all the work would be done that needs to be done.

    I used to run a small stautory authority in Australia. I cut the total jobs from 700 to 350, the number of management levels from 5 to 2 and the total number of so called managers by 80% . Result: all the work got done and more efficiently.

  18. Daedalus
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I leave my employer at the end of the month, after 10 years, still don’t know what my payout will be. My second in command will be the new dept head reporting further down the structure on a lot less money than I was/am on. The company need to make big savings, our production is down by 25% year on year and last year was not good. I understand that and I accept it. What I cannot accept is that the public sector is still seemingly growing like toppsy.

    My wife works for the NHS in the community, in the last 10 years she has seen the number of managers go up and services go down. She used to work in a team out of the local doctors surgery, now its the trust, who seem to add layers of expense just to make her job more difficult. Personally I would not want to see people in the public sector made redundant as the ones that would go would be like my wife, at the coal face, not in the ivory towers. BUT at the same time we have to make massive savings its got to happen and 20% savings is not enough. We cannot wait for the Conservatives to get in it must be done now at local and central govenment level.

  19. michael
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    These jobs, more often than not, are advertised to satisfy European regulations.

    In fact, more often than not, the jobs go to insiders.

    That insider cops a pay rise. Another insider fills his boots, and cops a pay rise, and so on.

    This job multiplier and pay escalator in the public sector is a bit more pricey than it looks at first glance which as you point out is rediculously pricey … and a complete waste of time.

    • SJB
      Posted May 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      On of the key aims of the European Union (“EU”) is the free movement of workers – the idea being that if workers from member states are distributed around each other’s countries then it reduces the risk of war. Therefore, work going to insiders would seem to run counter to this aim. So I was interested in sm’s post (supra) where he discovered vacancies requiring at least 3 month’s NHS experience because these would advertisements would appear to preclude health workers from other EU member states.

  20. Doug
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    John I think your wrong concerning Aberdeen City Council. It has just come out of a horrendous review on its services and budget. It is slashing budgets nearly everywhere, cancelling projects and has sacked many of its managers due to incompetence. I thought it was against the law for public bodies to promote people into empty positions without first advertising the position.

  21. Ruth
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I worked in the public sector some years ago and am astonished at the way salaries have risen since then. It was starting before I left and as far as I can see, it began with the big cities, with large budgets. But before long it had spread to piddling little councils too.

    The mantra “we need to compete with the private sector” is nonsense. Working in the public sector is in some ways much easier than the private sector – shorter hours, flexitime, more holidays, more generous terms and conditions generally, so there will always be people who want to do it. In some ways it’s more frustrating and hard to get things done in the public sector – hence why I left and would never go back.

    As to the adverts themselves, all public sector organisations have to advertise all vacancies even if they have someone who could fill it (or even if there is already someone in post on a temporary basis) – that’s equal opportunities for you. It’s nonsense and means a lot of money is wasted, as usually the incumbent or obvious candidate is appointed.

    Given the nature of the advert in question it looks like these are newly created posts, probably slightly different to those already in existence. I refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave a moment ago – there are probably people already in these posts in some way, but the jobs have been given swanky new titles and slightly different job descriptions to justify the “director” role and salary.

  22. Denis Cooper
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Agreed; it’s stupid to carry on recruiting people for such positions.

  23. Acorn
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    With public spending scheduled to be £671 billion and tax revenues at £496 billion, we have a government Treasury deficit of £175 billion. Your posts today, suggest “20% off”, actually we need “26% off”, just to balance the budget.

    JR, I need to tap your banker brain. The subscription finance blog sites are into the inflation explosion which they think is down the road. They are seeing the US and the UK in particular, most vulnerable. They are using a metric defined as the sum of the increase in BoE balance sheet and the government fiscal deficit, divided by GDP. For the US, this is coming out at 29% and for the UK 24%. Apparently these levels are unprecedented in history, several times higher than the Great Depression.

    Should I worry?

    http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article10524.html

    Reply: Yes, we should all worry. This is all unprecedented. All the time the credit creating banks are weak it is not very inflationary, but at some point the excess money has to be withdrawn. So far the easy money seems to be going into equities and commodities, more than into bonds.

  24. Nick
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    A week ago a job was advertised in the guardian that was utter incomprehensible.

    I asked the council just what precisely the job would entail and they couldn’t tell me.

    I have no idea what a “Cross border stake holder consultancy director” or “chairtable institution public operations facilitaro does but this must end. A job description must not hide the fact it is a waste of money. It must, always be clear and transparent, not just a “Jobs for the boys” role.

    In short, it must earn money for the country, not cost money.

  25. Jason
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    This is all absolutely crazy….why pay such high salaries when all the taxpayer gets is a raw deal in every aspect and of course that wont include expenses etc as you say. This is another example of how public expenditure crowds out private. Private jobs are generative – at this rate we will all be working for the govt – whether unemployed or employed…the whole country on the payroll funded by an overwhelmed and dwindling productive sector coupled with ever increasing public debt. Utter shambles…

    The political classes have gone mad on our money – this is clearly evident…we need to remove the trough from under their snouts and impose proper order and accountability. It is simply disgraceful – not only have the public been taken for a multi-trillion pound ride by morons without basic economic illiteracy who propose and vote on policy they do not even comprehend – only to be slapped in the face by the disgraceful looting that many MP’s expense claims represent.

    My problem is what to do about it? How can we trust democracy when the very institution established to protect and serve us – has put us in the path of abject danger and turns us in to slaves – working our backsides off to pay for a huge debt that was totally unnecessary and avoidable – whilst those who did us this disservice ask us to pony up £600 for a couple of flowerpots etc in addition to compensation packages way out line given any competence benchmark. Its just plain wrong. It is a form of corruption in my view – certainly in terms of moral equivalence. If there are new regulations – it just means that MPs cannot be trusted…who will write those rules? Those in the establishment themselves…turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. This is about trust and it is difficult for me to see how the system, institutions and people that got us into this mess should be trusted to get us out of it.

    Look most professions have some form of standards, in the army a leader who put his troops in jeopardy -would be taken off active duty pending an investigation, a doctor who killed a patient through negligence would be disbarred. Think of what this government has done to this country without anyone or institution being able to effectively challenge them. How is that in the interest of the people. It is clear to me MP’s, parties and civil service need independent oversight – continuously. That is has come down to this is the most damming indictment of this governments failure and would unfortunately represent an additional level of bureaucracy and cost for the taxpayer. But its a broke system, literally and figuratively.

  26. upbeatskeptic
    Posted May 11, 2009 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    A review of the huge amount of ‘non-jobs’ could well be beneficial too, a trimming that might well catapult scores of talented people back into the productive sector.

  27. Robin
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    How about the (one of many, many, many) newsreaders who got paid £92,000K.

    As I calculate it that’s 92,000 / 142.50 = 646 households (or about 6 streets in the UK) required to pay a newsreader I’ve never even heard of – what a waste of money !!

  28. Marc
    Posted May 12, 2009 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    All well and good condemning tha advertising and promotion of such non-jobs, John, but in the light of today’s revelations about moat-cleaning and tennis-court refurbishment, how can we trust the Tories to do a decent job of eliminating these jobs, along with the vast and useless Quangos that litter the landscape?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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