Productivity

Productivity is an ugly sounding word from economics. Some are worried by it as they fear it means job losses, restructurings, making people work harder. Curiously enough it is a word which apparently unites the warring political parties. They all claim to want higher productivity. Some even understand that increased productivity is the key to higher real pay and better living standards. If business can produce more with less,  prices can be lower or specifications and quality higher, and we can afford to buy more or better.

Agreeing to support the general cause is as good as it gets. As we discovered again on Tuesday in the Finance Bill debate, productivity is also a word which divides, as different parties have different views of what you need to do to raise productivity, and where you might apply the policy.

I detected once again a distinct unease by Labour to discuss public sector productivity, for example. This is odd, given that Ministers- and indirectly MPs – have much more influence over how the public sector is financed and managed than we do over the private sector. I pointed out that during the long Labour years 1997-2010 there were no overall productivity gains in the main public services, at a time when private sector productivity was advancing moderately every year.It would be good to know from them why that was, and what they learned from the experience of presiding over a large sector with no clear gains.

The public sector has struggled with the digital revolution more than the private. The application of computer technology and robotics to business is transforming many areas of our lives. The UK public sector still does not have proper computerised records and controls in the NHS, tax has not yet gone fully digital and robotics are not much deployed.

The public sector has had access to substantial sums of capital to transform the way it does things, but has also had a disappointing record at implementing change through large computer programmes.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

47 Comments

  1. James Neill
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    Can’t argue with any of this-

    additionally we have to get people working smarter and find some way of challenging the high priests of industry, the Unions, who are reluctant to allow any change whatsoever and then the safety gurus, who always come around after an accident, never before, and draw up huge reports with recommendations that drag us all down. I’m not saying to be reckless and go around safety but it should not be the holy grail- untouchable. If we want to be able to work smarter and therefore be more productive everything should be on the table.

    • Alan
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      My health and safety is very important.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:55 am | Permalink

        Heath and safety laws can often make things worse – so much of it is misguided and written by people who have never done the jobs. A huge excuse for more and more non productive and essentially parasitic jobs.

        All these laws yet they clad tower blocks in flammable insulation!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

          But doubtless paid attention to all the working at heights directives.

      • Hope
        Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        How about MP productivity? Part-time unqualified post where you get a pay rise despite pay cap, RPI instead of CPI for pensions, second jobs, employ family and tax concessions the rest not allowed. How about being role models or set examples to the there’s in the public sector? Civil service and local authorities not fit for purpose with extreme left wing bias. When is your govt going to get the structure right, the culture right and renumeration right, productivity will follow. Too many high paid but substandard performers. This includes the majority of MPs whose only real decision making is done for them by the whip system.
        We powered promised reform by all parties in 2009, when is this going to happen.
        May using the army because she cut the number by 20,000! How damaging for your party. She also off loads the decision of the security threat to others! Is she up to the job!

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Industry is privatised.

      Health and Safety ‘gone mad’ is actually no-win-no-fee, also privatised.

  2. Alan
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    Productivity is one of the few areas where I can feel any hope for the consequences of Brexit. We should have less immigrants and hence less people to do many of the less skilled jobs. This could encourage employers to invest more in equipment to do more with less people. There are plenty of good engineers in this country to design and produce this equipment. We might hope to develop robots and intelligent machines. I don’t really expect us to rise to this challenge – I just expect some of our industries to decline – but there is at least the slight possibility that we could come well out of this.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:00 am | Permalink

      Employers and individuals will invest if they see a sensible return on the investment and if they are left with enough money (after tax) to actually do so. But then again why invest if the government will just steal 40% of your assets off you on death on top of the 45% plus NI, VAT, Council tax, fuel duty, stamp duty ….. they tax off you when alive.

    • Bryan Harris
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Indeed, BREXIT will awake the innovative spirit in those currently coasting along – which has to be a good thing….

      But, have you noticed, ever since we had excessive immigration, the establishment has stopped pushing down our throats the idea that we should only have 2 kids per family, as the country couldn’t support more – Of course they had to stop saying this because it might offend some immigrants, who breed so well.

    • sm
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      When the anti-slavery movement began (and it was born in England, let’s not forget), a very major objection was that economies would collapse – and of course many, many influential and worthy people would lose their considerable incomes. Slavery was a system that had been accepted for centuries across continents, and to abolish it was unthinkable and unfeasible in the extreme, or so the doomsayers predicted.

      Well, it took a long time to achieve the noble aim of abolition (not everywhere, I admit), but it happened, and the sky did not ultimately fall in, because people, economies and States had to learn to adapt.

      And Western societies are the better for it!

    • Anonymous
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Automation is coming anyway. Japan knows this, hence it is not worried about having fewer people.

      Automated cars. Just what are we going to do with all those redundant Uber drivers ?

  3. stred
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    HMRC are sending emails to BTL landlords offering digital courses on how to manage their tax submissions. This is worrying as the tax applications were relatively easy and now they are talking about complex digital apps etc. This can only reduce productivity and put up cost.

    I have had to scrap my much cared for old diesel estate, which has done excellent service as my ‘van’ for 19 years. It was in perfect mechanical order with new tyres and battery. The tax had gone to £248. I got 50 quid. The car would not be able to use the new residents parking scheme where my properties are and I have bought a tiny French car which has zero tax and runs on petrol. It actually does the same mpg as the big diesel but even the parking charge is half of the £130 that the council is extorting. This must put GDP up and help the French economy.

    When collecting the French car, I had to transfer from the tube to a rail company running to North London. I thought I would need a rail ticket and bought one- nearly £8 for about 8 miles. When I came out from the underground, I crossed to the overground and could not find any of the usual machine to issue the ticket with a credit card and code. The train was waiting and instead of the ticket office there was a helper at the gate. The train was about to leave. He said that people use their smart phones to get through and I didn’t have one. I had to use my debit card that I use on the underground and then paid another £8 for 8 miles. Needless to say, the helpline is a charge line and getting a refund was impossible.

    Yesterday, the Dartford Crossing emailed me to say that my credit card had been refused and, if my balance went below £10, my ability to use the automated system would be revoked permanently. The card had been stopped by the bank after a fraud attempt. This took about 2 hours to resolve, talking to an office in Leeds. I can now pay them the usual £12 a week to get to work and home. Thank god I read my email before travelling.Productivity up?

  4. eeyore
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Is this post a hint that we are now replacing Austerity with Productivity? And does that mean replacing prudence and sound money with prodigality and vague hopes?

    If a Conservative government has abandoned even the miserable rags of a sound money policy, who else will protect the taxpayer from the rapacity of the State?

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    The pubic sector care not what they spend, nor what value they give. It is not their money they are wasting after all, nor they who benefit from their output. Much of their output has zero or a net negative value anyway. A lot of their state sector “output” is inconveniencing and over taxing the productive mugging motorists and the likes. In many areas they kill much of the competition (through tax and subsidy) so they become dire state virtual monopolies like the NHS, education, the BBC, much of social housing, the police, refuse ….

    Look for example at the absurdly complex benefit & tax systems. The complexity itself is a further tax on top of the taxes themselves (taxing the time of the productive). They cannot even bring the three income taxes they levy (NI employees, NI employers and Income tax) into one sensible system.

    The main things that kill productivity in the UK are the bloated incompetent state sector, daft restrictive employment laws, a slow, over complex, slow and over expensive legal system, a lack of real competition in banking, the expensive energy/climate alarmism religion, restrictive planning, over taxation, over complex taxation and endless damaging red tape.

    But T May is a fan of all these things. Endlessly wittering on about gender pay gaps building on EU worker rights or attacking the gig economy! This while wasting billions on HS2, Hinkley C and greencrap subsidies for insane energy schemes. The state is the problem not the solution as always.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

      Look at the appalling inefficiency in defence procurement and the aircraft carriers (sitting ducks) without aircraft or any suitable protection. The government even entertained by insane Swansea “Lagoon” lunacy for a while –

      They care not what they spend nor what value they get – not my money mate it’s the taxpayers we are wasting and being well paid and pensioned to do so.

  6. Bryan Harris
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    Much of this has to be down to the attitude of public sector workers (PSW) – there seems to be the idea that some think the State owes them something, but work ethics are certainly not as strong when you match them against the private sector.
    The other thing that gets in the way of PSW’s productivity, is the propensity to employ people based on pc reasons, rather than ability to do the job – PSW productivity will never improve until this crazy idea is outlawed!
    As for corbyn and his blindness towards the subject – he doesn’t care about productivity – he’d be quite happy for it all to collapse, after all, he is aiming for a Cuba style economy.

  7. Nig l
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Frances Maude was spot on again the other day. Sir Humphrey is not up to it provoking a typical defensive response from Jeremy Haywood that our civil service is the best in the world.

    There is your problem plus inept Ministers of State appointed for political reasons who have had no experience in change management. At an operational level Programmes are set up for political purposes or personal whim, we now know Osborne overrode Treasury concerns to force HS2 through, they are never funded to provide more than ‘a lick of paint’ and you are obsessed with a value for money bidding process that invariably goes to the lowest, because corners have been cut with sometimes the Provider’s experience of delivering such a programme marginal to say the least.

    You bang on about tax avoidance, are always looking at new ways to take money from us yet nothing, as you say about bringing HMG into the 21st century. Why. Obvious. You have no commercial pressure. In the public sector budgets are there to be spent. I once worked in a funded business where it looked like we would have a surplus so we asked all our consultants to invoice us as much as possible even though the work had not been done or some cases commissioned. Audits were a joke. In the private sector Management is rewarded if budgets are underspent.

    Over the past 10 years or more HSBC has been investing vast amounts of money upgrading their computer systems overcoming legacy problems without at the most minor glitches plus engaged with the latest Fintech and the other Banks are doing the same. If there had been substantial downside problems you politicians would have been all over them.

    The Student Loan company has been taking vast amounts of money incorrectly because we now know their MI is only upgraded by the tax authority annually. No one thought that the figures would change every time a repayment was made. Anyone sacked, reprimanded? Of course not.

    Enough said.

  8. Peter
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Well done Boris.

    A timely, positive speech.

    If Mrs. May had any notion of backsliding – though we have no evidence of that – this statement offers an alternative.

  9. Ian Wragg
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    There is absolutely no incentive for the public sector to improve productivity.
    The NHS is a prime example where large numbers walk around carrying documents.
    I have been taking my Mother in law ever month for some tests. There is a very pleasant young lady who’s sole job is to weigh patients.
    Appointment so are usually 20 mins so she weighs 24 people daily. Even if she’s on minimum wage it’s an awful waste of taxpayers money.
    I expect the usual suspects will vilify me for making such an observation.
    Another point I’ve studied in A&E more than half are immigrants using it as their GP service.
    It’s time we knew exactly who we are treating.

    • Hope
      Posted September 17, 2017 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      More than half where I live, it is very clear. Howev, they are nev asked if they are entitled o treatment, there is an A4 laminated card which no one pays any attention to. Simply rediculous. Hunt should have walked a long time ago.

  10. Titan
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    Huygens, over ten years ago landed on Titan, showed us a few pics. Scientists said this was highly productive. So much information it would take two full years of analysis. Then the public would be informed. So you no doubt have seen the twenty volumes of information on your local bookstore shelves about Titan?In truth, it was not productive at all. All the information could have been and was obtained via earth-based apparatus. Titan merely reaffirmed a small portion of it.
    The point: Great intelligence is not necessarily the direct route to productivity. There is an Ideology of Technology which is just as pervasive as Marxism -Leninism and detrimental to our economical well-being. Management and academics are full of it.

  11. Titan
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Correction of last sentence, first paragraph. “Huygens merely reaffirmed a small portion of it” I made a one-word computer error. Confusing a whole moon with a tiny satellite.

  12. DaveM
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Good morning, and totally off topic;

    Can people tell me where they get their online news digest from please? I’ve totally given up with the BBC because – apart from the main headline – it just broadcasts non-news and diversity topics. I’ve had a bash at RT and a couple of others……and I don’t do Twitter or Facebook.

    Thanks.

  13. Nerwmania
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Productivity in the public sector is something one experiences almost like travelling in time . In my business ( Insurance ),consumers now expect instant contract certainty and a fluid markets competing for their cash. We try to deliver using web platforms and ever evolving technologies .
    The loss of Free access to security licensed throughout Europe is a gear grinding step backwards , but whilst it is a slice of dumb cake to eat , we have been working on adapting for three years now and much less good is still not bad. Anyhoo ….
    Consider this commonplace work environment and then consider what it is like to need something from the Council..
    You must physically appear armed with parchment , no-one will know who you are if indeed the building you were told to go to is the right one. Weeks will pass while some box ticking nonsense is mal-coordinated .The people you deal with seem somewhat less motivated than a man trotting down the corridor for an appointment with old sparky. It is a quite astonishing “journey” , back to eh 1940s and ye god`s the pensions !!!! If I go to hell I will be forced to listen to one of them ‘’not understand who pays for them and how , forever .
    Productivity is not a panacea .The reality means change and change hurts people . Nonetheless , Mr Redwood has out his finger on the great problem with the country. The Unionised public sector, the road block both to productivity and confidence in the common good. Progress made due to Brexit , ZERO.
    Brexit makes matters worse in many ways but one deadly outcome is the long term damage to Liberal economic thinking . I, for god`s sake will be obliged to vote for Jeremy Corbyn. I can hardly believe it myself but there it is.

    Still lets applaud the good .Super post beautifully written and crisp as the bright autumn morning that I shall now enjoy.

  14. Duncan
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    At the heart of every public sector organisation Ludditism reigns supreme. I know this, the oppressive public sector unions know this and Mr Redwood knows this.

    The unions represent a total block on forcing up ‘productivity’ in these Neanderthal state-run entities. They see plans to increase efficiencies as a direct attack on their members. It suggests their members are ‘unproductive’ and that’s a slander which the backward unions will not go of easily

    And of course it’s a power play. The unions think they’re in control of their patch and they’ll threaten mass walkouts should the Tories try and change things.

    The public sector despises change. The public sector now exists for the primary benefit of those it employs and the end-user and the taxpayer can either like it or lump it. We can’t transfer our spending and express our disapproval of a supplier like we can in the private sector and so we pay our taxes and have to rely on politicians-govts to ensure the public sector satisfies our needs

    I foresee in the following months national strikes across the board. The hard left is on the rise, militancy is on the rise and we have a wet tory leader who will capitulate and up public sector privileges to levels never seen before to stave off industrial action and we the taxpayer will once again be smashed with more taxes

    When will this govt understand that the public sector unions cost the taxpayer billions each year. backward working practices, early retirements, excessive privileges all extracted under the threat of industrial action and we have to pick up the cost.

    Solution – abolish the opt-in system. All public sector workers work until 65-67. Money purchase scheme pension.

  15. Original Richard
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    In a recent BBC R4 programme ‘World of Business/In Business’ titled “Why are the French so productive?” an MIT professor of economics said that the French were 30% more productive that the UK by GDP/hours worked.

    [Can be found by Googling “Why are the French so Productive?”]

    Hopefully Brexit, combined with the majority view in the UK that immigration should be severely curtailed, will mean that both government and businesses will start to invest in training and equipment instead of simply importing cheaper foreign labour.

  16. a-tracy
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    I believe it’s because public sector over complicate requests to IT software providers instead of doing what private sector small businesses do and that is fix the immediate bottlenecks and then work on long term projects.

    For example, every home in your area that doesn’t pay their council tax bill should be identified by the touch of a button. This should then be checked against the hmrc computer to see if the resident is working and paying income tax, these details are sent by the employers monthly now. AOEO should be a smooth computerised process. When everyone is paying their fair share on time then the local services that are crying out for more money and more pay will get it.

    Why are public sector software services so poor? Are the programmers in-house? You’re taking so much information off people now why are things so difficult to centralise?

    Police productivity: on the TV news yesterday Diane Abbot was arguing with a Conservative about who was cutting spending on London police and its all so annoying when they just accuse each side of lying, well give us the facts. I thought there was a London Transport Police, I thought this cost was met by ticket sales is that true or not? What % of overall ticket sales is the transport policing cost? Is this transport policing the responsibility of the Mayor and the London Assembly or not? Does any additional money come from Central Government into London Transport Police or not? Is this based on London Business Rates?

    When it comes to Terrorism and matters of national security politicians shouldn’t be able to use media interest in these incidents to make political points it’s counterproductive and contributes to fear and unrest with helps the perps.

  17. Bert Young
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Productivity in all areas of the economy is essential if we are to maintain a leading presence in the trading world . If there are differences between the standards set in the private sector to those in the public sector , then changes have to occur . It should always be an incentive to work in the most rewarding places ; those who wish to drag their feet do nothing to add to our success ; they have to be motivated to change their ways .

    Measuring success in the NHS is a tricky undertaking ; I recall challenging a respected and well known heart surgeon about his relatively low ranking in the league table ; he responded by saying ” I take on some of the no-hopers “. Of course he was right , and if I had to select a heart surgeon to attend to me , I would have chosen him . The NHS is a costly undertaking and it does have many areas where efficiency can be improved ; it is still a leading example to the world and something we should all be proud of .

  18. Mick
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Off topic a little, I see the eu loving bias BBC are giving a lot of airtime to the lib’s with the undemocratic cable on the marr and question time programs and the equally undemocratic ashdown on the Sunday politics, it’s about time this organisation was made aware that we ARE LEAVING so get use to it and stop doing your best to knock Britain and drop British from your title and start calling yourself EBC if you love Europe that much

  19. Fed up
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    As someone with years of experience in IT – here’s a few words of advice on public sector IT projects:

    1.) The projects are normally far too ambitious – trying to do too much in one go meaning the projects take so long that the requirements inevitably change before they are complete – leading to huge cost overruns or complete project failure.
    2.) Someone (a single person ultimately – who’s available and part of the project team) in the public sector side of the project actually needs to have autonomy and be able to take ownership/responsibility for decision.
    3.) Competent public sector staff need to be made properly available during the project life cycle.

  20. MikeP
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’m no great fan of public sector staffing models – I often deplore how they run – but could one key difference be that their customer base, whether they like it or not, is the entire UK population – and, for the NHS, many a visitor from overseas too. This figure has been growing at an alarming rate in recent years, due to net inward migration and perhaps also higher than average immigrant birth rates.
    By contrast, private sector firms can choose who to sell to, who to build relationships with and – if they’re as savvy as we expect them to be – those from whom they can extract the most growth and profit. They can then synchronise the implementation of their systems and process changes to the growth of their chosen markets. Perhaps their staffing models and ability to implement IT and robotics would struggle too if they were forced to trade with everyone in the country ?

  21. Epikouros
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    The last thing the public sector wants is to improve productivity as that means working harder for less pay than they believe they are entitled to and fewer jobs. Their unions and their sense of social justice just will not accept that regardless of the financial burden on hard working people in the private sector. Who have to work harder for less pay than they feel they are entitled to as they do not have the luxury of a captive customer base. They cannot drag their feet and be obdurate and refuse to embrace new ways of working, innovations or technologies.

    The UK private sector does have problems with productivity and much needs to be done to improve it. We could take a leaf out of the French book. Adopt their socialist practices of draconian employment laws that give a short working week and making it impossible to discard bad workers which of course leads to employers hiring fewer to do more because of the resulting very high labour costs. Germany of course let their wages fall(with worker approval) and like the USA and some places in Asia adopt efficient management and worker practices coupled with a culture that all work for the betterment of the business they work for as that benefits the many not the few.

  22. Norman
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    It is a very hard thing to reform the Civil Service, and I remember Tony Blair called for its ‘root and branch’ reform. You can install all the trappings of the private sector, such as calling the executive agencies ‘businesses’, and the public ‘customers’; also better use of property management, bonuses for managers, etc (which is all largely play-acting). But to really change the culture is very much harder: there’s much hiding behind unmentionable p/c abstractions, which we were told come all the way down from Cabinet Office, and can become almost oppressive.
    Genuine reform would involve principled, visionary leadership, of a kind that is now increasingly relegated to the shadows: it tends to be ‘selected out’ on the way up. So what we end-up with is rough-and-ready pruning, which is often handicapping and morale-busting – like the carrier ship with no planes – all politically and existentially risky. Sad. But of one thing I’m certain: a post Brexit Britain has a far better chance of re-discovering the values that make for a sense of identity, purpose and welfare for its citizens. We cannot ask any more of our politicians – but it is a high calling indeed, beginning among the grass-roots of those who elect them. So, in effect, we all have a part to play, however small.

  23. Raymond
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Speaking for myself, as an employee in the public sector, I have increasingly used computers and incrementally more advanced software over the years. This has aided rapid information gathering and analysis. Hopefully my professional judgement has developed as well.
    I wouldn’t belittle the need for a safe and healthy work environment.

  24. margaret
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    A rather naïve first paragraph from yourself John . The theory is spot on , the reality is more money for the top earners ( with just a show of increased productivity) I personally have worked very hard all my life , been plagiarised , put down, had my academic qualifications disregarded, why ?….. profiteering from slave like employers who decide who to degrade for the only purpose of filling their pockets or the companies.

  25. Mark
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    It isn’t just the public sector’s own direct activities – it is also the ones they regulate, with energy being a prime example. They seem to want to try to reduce our productivity and the effectiveness of investment – white elephants are preferred to making progress. There is a mindset at work here, and it seems it affects politicians in charge too, because they do nothing to correct it.

  26. Tom Rogers
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Simple solution – just get rid of the public sector.

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted September 16, 2017 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

      Tom Rogers.

      Thats a really silly thing to suggest. Public sector work is not the ‘gold plated’ experience some people seem to think it is. There is often a lot of pressure and very poor pay. You would certainly see the difference if all public sector workers downed tools’!

      • Tom Rogers
        Posted September 17, 2017 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        No, I want rid of it. I should choose which services I want and don’t want.

  27. Stuart
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Productivity is the key to increased wealth but why does the media always talk about LABOUR productivity and never about CAPITAL productivity. For the latter we need long term investment. This is where the City of London has let down the UK down for decades. The City will not invest long term. They have sold our country short. Germany has been far more successful in its capital investment strategy (and nothing to do with the EU).

  28. The Prangwizard
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I prefer the phrase productive efficiency, of which of there is not enough. I agree with Alan that if we had far fewer immigrants employers might well invest in machinery. After all if an employer can get someone cheap to do the same thing in the same old way, chances are that is what he will do. Fear of course is that importing is too easy.

    But we don’t try to make enough things here anyway. Just look around, just about everything we use is an import. How does a country change peoples view when they have been led to believe that foreign is best. And how do you re-start manufacturing products which we arrogantly thought we needn’t make ourselves anymore and threw away to others to do? We can’t pretend we can just develop new products – we are not a country doing that. Others are leavjng us behind again.

    Obsession with The City and complacency about it has a lot to do with it. We should forget it exists and plan to live without it. Imagine how well off we would be if we had a big manufacturing base too.

  29. MikeP
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Presumably UK national productivity is GDP per capita. If that’s the case then surely the Government should focus on encouraging a lot more doctors, IT professionals, accountants, management consultants, civil engineers, aerospace engineers, pharmaceutical researchers et al and perhaps fewer people who are happy to live 6-8 to a house and wish to drive taxis, or do car valeting in supermarket car parks, or run nail bars and tattoo parlours then ask the rest of us to pay them top-up, in-work benefits ?

    Meanwhile (tweeted today by Robert Kimbell) some interesting comparisons to put the UK’s performance properly in context:
    1) Inflation August 2017
    UP! Germany
    UP! France
    UP! Italy
    UP! Spain
    UP! NL
    UP! Belgium
    UP! Austria
    UP! Ireland
    UP! Hungary
    UP! Finland
    UP! Poland
    UP! Czechia
    UP! Portugal
    UP! Slovakia
    UP! Lithuania
    UP! Bulgaria
    UP! Switzerland
    UP! Malta
    UP! Estonia
    UP! Croatia
    UP! Latvia
    And yes Up UK, with all the rest, #despitebrexit.

    UK voters need more of these international comparisons, if Government isn’t too shy of us seeing them. Let’s be better than the best not just better than ourselves a year ago

  30. Timaction
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Are those in the Westminster village going to get independent people looking at there productivity as you all seem to be in recess a lot of the time, employing people to write bog standard letters to well rehearsed issues? When are your numbers being reduced and your pay and pension package coming into line with everyone else? CPI instead of RPI for example. Cuts in your pension accrual rates, for more years like all other public sector employees? Indeed we do need productivity in ALL public life, especially when we see the quality and calibre of some in that chamber and on television.

  31. Dennis
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    JR writes, ‘ Some even understand that increased productivity is the key to higher real pay and better living standards. ‘

    No mention anywhere in any media/speech etc. of who or more accurately what fundamentally has to pay for this. It seems no one knows or most likely has never thought about it. We’ll have to wait until the chickens come back……..

  32. Christine
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    “The public sector has had access to substantial sums of capital to transform the way it does things, but has also had a disappointing record at implementing change through large computer programmes.”

    I worked in both the public and private sector delivering IT systems for DWP. Would it surprise you that in the 17 years prior to the year 2000 the in-house IT staff delivered at very little cost all the major IT systems that are still in use today? Since the work was outsources in 2000 nothing of any note has been delivered by the private sector with hundreds of millions of pounds being wasted.
    Investing in training our own staff rather than sending jobs to India is far more cost effective in the long run.

  33. Andy Marlot
    Posted September 16, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

    More productive bureaucrats is very much a two edged sword. Since all they do is hinder the actual productive sectors surely we want them less “productive”. In terms of police productivity they could arrest some of the terrorists they always seem to be aware of after an attack yet never do anything about before. The NHS could try having less of the incredible amounts of paperwork filled out at every level by every single person you speak to. Having to repeat your name, address and every detail of your medical history is a huge waste of everyone’s time not to mention paper. Has nobody heard of tablet computers? Transport and road traffic departments could stop installing traffic lights at every junction and roundabout and instead do something about all the bottlenecks of which I can list dozens within a few miles of me now. If they can’t do that what is the point of paying them? The armed forces could stop buying weapons we don’t need to fight wars we don’t want in places we’ll never go to. You could close the Department of Media and Culture and Trade & Industry and not even notice any difference. I’m pretty sure a lot of others could go with only beneficial effects. How about a real revolution? Fire incompetent bureaucrats.

  34. anon
    Posted September 17, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Productivity?

    HS2, Hinckley, Overseas Aid?

    These are strategic decisions taken by people who seem to be rewarded with risk free salaries, pensions and benefits.

    Cant we be told who made these strategic decisions and how are they accountable in reality.

    Why arent MP’s salaries tied to some balanced metrics of like GDP per capita? Debt per capita. etc

    MPs & public sector, should not be allowed special pensions, paid for by council tax and other private sector paye who cannot afford similar benefits.

    Right of recall for MPs?

    Also the benefits of productivity need to be shared. If this results in larger differentials, then that is self defeating and should be addressed via direct taxation on the winners and the dissallowing the expense against tax.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page