Managing the Public Sector – My Article for Conservative Home

Labour lost office in 1979,when it lost control of the public sector. Its own trade Union friends and supporters created a winter of discontent, with rubbish piled in the streets and the dead going unburied. The party had unleashed a rapid inflation it could not control. Workers were fed up with pay controls and with the squeeze on living standards they were experiencing. In those days Ministers were to blame for the price rises and the pay policy.

The government  thinks today is different. They say an independent Central Bank and the outbreak of a European war have brought on the inflation. The public services are these days largely run by independent boards with professional management. It is their job to get on with the employees, settle the pay and raise the productivity to help pay for it.

There are two main problems for the government. The first is these independent bodies are handling things badly. The Board of NHS England has received huge increases in funding from Ministers only to deliver the biggest ever backlog and problems for many patients in getting access to a GP or hospital appointment. The  six senior managers there earning well over £200,000 each do not appear on the media to make the case for their pay and staffing proposals.  What is their plan to recruit and retain the staff they need? Where is the long awaited manpower plan?

The Bank of England created excess money and held interest rates too low for too long, ending with an inflation rate five times its target and five times the level in China, a country also facing high energy prices from the war. The  railways effectively nationalised by the need to subsidise empty trains over covid has gone on losing vast sums and now expects a pay rise on the taxpayers. Where are the productivity raising plans and the more popular timetables?

The second problem is the public expects Ministers to sort these things out. After all they appoint the key players that run these bodies. They can take them back under Ministerial control if they are not working. Weak poll ratings are saying to Ministers “Get a grip”. Deliver better service for an affordable tax bill. The NHS has received record levels of funding in the last three years and has presided over wasteful PPE contracts, underused contracts to access private hospitals and the cost of setting up and shutting down the Nightingales.

The problem is magnified by the poor performance of lots of branches of central government directly under Ministerial control. There  has been a collapse of productivity in processing asylum applications. There  are delays in getting probate approvals and in passport renewals. The civil service is good at delaying implementation of Ministerial decisions they do not like . They often offer advice to keep the UK fully aligned with the EU and to give in to the forces of the global soft left.

So what should the government do? There is no simple legislative solution. Wrestling changes of law through to force public sector employees to give up rights to strike may harden disputes. The delay in doing so makes it impossible for this to work for this December’s struggles. There was plenty of spare Parliamentary time if Ministers had wanted a new strike law this month. What the government needs to do is to mentor and encourage their chief executives to find ways of raising productivity and negotiating something for something settlements. If they cannot they need to replace chief executives who cannot manage their services.

The revelation of just how few asylum cases Home Office officials process compared to past levels shows how in some cases we are talking about a productivity collapse. What are the figures for probate cases, for issuing passports and the rest where there are backlogs? Do we need incentive pay? More staff? The senior managers should be organising the answers. Ministers clearly want a better service with backlogs cleared and should authorise and switch resources to do so.

Improvement should  be easiest on the railways. There is no case for giving train drivers paid well over average pay a large rise without action to improve working practices. Given the collapse of five day a week commuting and rise of on line home working the railway no longer has the same capacity to harm the economy as it once did. The railway management need to get across to their staff that the way to sustain and improve  higher wages comes from running more popular services. Serve people better and you have more money to share with staff.

Productivity has stagnated all this century in the UK public sector, despite huge sums spent on digital processing and despite the decline of in person service. More and more highly paid managers paid well in excess of the Prime  Minister have added to costs without adding to performance. Whenever a service fails or lets us down Ministers are blamed and left answering the unanswerable questions about what went wrong. There is no substitute for Ministers calling  in these expensive  CEO s and insisting on better plans to recruit and motivate the right staff and start clearing backlogs.

117 Comments

  1. Nigl
    December 13, 2022

    There is no substitute firing them on grounds of lack of performance. Strangely you leave out the levers available if your ‘insistence’ (what a weak word) falls on deaf ears.

    I guess you don’t have any or advise us to the contrary.

    1. Nottingham Lad Himself
      December 13, 2022

      There actually was a substantial public sector in 1979.

      Today, materially, there is very little. Examples that the parroters here hold up for vilification – such as the BBC – have now outsourced to the private sector almost everything material that they ever did, and this has been repeated across the board.

      Given that the Tories have been in for twelve years now, if they are incapable of staffing the few remaining skeletons properly then that says far more about them than it does about the public sector generally.

      1. Hat man
        December 13, 2022

        Correct, lad. And that includes the now privatised ambulance service (still with the NHS logo on their vehicles, in the hope of fooling the public). Train drivers, Royal mail workers, ambulance drivers, it’s the private sector going on strike.

      2. IanT
        December 13, 2022

        “Today, materially, there is very little”

        Mmmn – well the Public Sector peaked in 1979 at just over 7M and is currently about 5.7M but of course many industries were privatised in the 80’s so I suspect there has been growth in those areas that were not. It’s worth noting that Public Sector employment was 1.8M in 1939 just before the second WW. It didn’t fall back to former levels (as happened after WW1) falling to 3.4M in 1946 but rising from there on.

        The Civil Service currently employs about 512K and it was 517K in 1977 before Thatcher took over, falling to a low of 475K in 1999. It then peaked at 534K in 2004 when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, although he did reduce it to 481K by 2010. Under the Coalition, the number fell to 392K in 2015. All numbers from ONS and CS websites.

      3. a-tracy
        December 13, 2022

        NLH – it is still there, its just disguised as Housing Associations, business process outsourcing, anyone that primarily derives income as a contractor for the provision of government services.

      4. Hope
        December 13, 2022

        Tories yesterday voted to block transparency over freebies! Cameron claimed transparency best disinfectant, loony the next scandal, they even hiked their pay rises to prevent MPs thieving!

        Here we are twelve years on and all the secret blocking measures to hide theft and corruption are back in parliament! Good old lying Tories!

    2. Ian Wragg
      December 13, 2022

      The public sector are rewarded for mediocrity.
      All the people going on strike are in some way subsidised by the taxpayer.
      The general public see all government departments except the military failing.
      There is no will to solve the power crisis only repeat net zero, there is no will to stop the channel invasion.
      You’re a spent force and I’m surprised fishy doesn’t calk an election so you can run for the hills.
      How many are deserting you as they know the game’s up.

      1. ignoramus
        December 13, 2022

        This argument is a little ivory tower. I worked in both the public and private sector. I shared many of your beliefs that the public sector was inefficient. I discovered that the public sector’s client base is completely different.

        In the private sector, you avoid unprofitable clients and contracts.

        In the public sector, you are often dealing with people with serious issues, who want nothing to do with you and who the private sector would go nowhere near. Or else you are forced to do things that no private company would do in their right mind.

        A good example of this is the post office, which is private but barely profitable. Why? Because of its public service remit to deliver post to every address in the U.K.

      2. Ian Wragg
        December 13, 2022

        So today France is running its grid at maximum and there’s nothing spare for exporting. We are a hairs breadth away from power cuts. Any unplanned outages in the UK and we’re unvig trouble.
        What’s the plan John for the next 10 years when you plan to build all electric houses, ban ice cars and install 609 000 heat pumps annually
        Net zero my a..e.

        1. Mike Wilson
          December 14, 2022

          We’re exporting 3.9 gw at the moment. 2.57 he is going to France. I have been watching the grid a lot lately. Most of the time we are a net exporter – including to France.

      3. Original Richard
        December 13, 2022

        Ian Wragg : “The public sector are rewarded for mediocrity”.

        The communist fifth column who infest our Parliament, quangos, civil service, judiciary and institutions are employing diversity as a device to destroy meritocracy, one of the West’s most powerful tools, together with freedom of speech, for bringing equality and prosperity.

      4. Hope
        December 13, 2022

        JR needs to look at MP behaviour before civil service. Why should their standard be higher?

        EU in massive cash corruption scandal at heart of leadership for helping vested interests and yesterday Tories help with blocking any corruption measures!

    3. Hope
      December 13, 2022

      Dubai failed as chancellor and his party made him PM! Hunt failed as a minister rejected by his party of MPs and membership and he is chancellor!

      How many failed ministers back in cabinet under failed Sunak? Gove, Raab, Shapps, Mitchell, Barclay and how many quota appointments?

      Not sure what JR is writing about when the problem is systemic in his PCP and dishonesty is institutional. Just Get out.

    4. Timaction
      December 13, 2022

      Exactly. Sack them or don’t they have the balls?

  2. Mark B
    December 13, 2022

    Good morning.

    So what should the government do? There is no simple legislative solution.

    And there, staring in your face, is the problem. A carpenter can only see the solution to a problem by banging in more nails. There is one thing that the government can do, along with much else. It can control the purse strings. It can say that only the money it receives in taxes can be spent. No more borrowing. It can limit the size of the State to a certain percentage of the economy and set the percentage that each department can spend on salaries.

    President Trump in acted a law within days of becoming President that stipulated that, before a new State job is created, two must be removed. If he can do it, why cannot you ?

    Starve the beast !

    1. Hope
      December 13, 2022

      Trump also sacked many. Musk sacked loads as his first act. Tories promote them! I wonder what they should do…….?

    2. Mickey Taking
      December 13, 2022

      Don’t employ a carpenter who uses a hammer and nails.
      But the concept of allocated money – that is all there is, is a good one.
      Shock horror for Public CEOs.

  3. turboterrier
    December 13, 2022

    Very good post Sir John.
    Just confirming what most of us are thinking. Throwing money at the problem will not and will never be the answer for government controlled departments.
    It has to come down to leadership and the introduction of new ideas to change the culture within the organisations.
    Introducing real responsibility and accountability thinking and giving all the staff a feeling of ownership.
    Too many woke jobs that don’t bring real value to the organisations creating foxholes for people to hide and operate in auto pilot doing just enough to ensure their position and their pension.
    The whole government way of doing things has got to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
    The selection of MPs has really got to be changed, we get people with the right experience and qualifications in place who understand the departments they are to control. The time has come for all the sludge valves to be fully opened.

    1. Bloke
      December 13, 2022

      People with responsibility should be MADE responsible.
      If a Minister of Transport had to pay the cost of a single driver stuck in traffic jams, wasting time and fuel and missing appointments, he might take better care.
      Is a Home Secretary charged the cost of even a single burglary?
      Does a Health Secretary have to do any more than express regret when patients are at risk without recourse to treatment?
      Responsibility of consequences falls hard on the victims and the taxpayer, but rarely on those who were assigned to respond as their main job in charge.

    2. Lifelogic
      December 13, 2022

      They need to be competent, honest and not bending to vested interests as they surely do all the time witness HS2, the net harm vaccines even for kids, test &trace, the lab leak cover up, HS2, Net Zero and renewables, the endless red tape… how else to explain this lunacy but vested interests or corruption and “lobbying”.

      “EU credibility is at stake amid Quatar corruption scandal” I read. What credibility is that? UK little better.

  4. turboterrier
    December 13, 2022

    Too many quangos and internal advisors. The lines of communication are on a par with a birds nest.
    The more people advising each with their own pet ideas dilutes the effectiveness of operational decision making. Too tied up with out of date treaties and laws creating road blocks at every junction. The world has changed and moved on whilst we stand still at times frightened about what others may think.
    This is clearly highlighted in the state of our energy, education, health and welfare services. The end result massive waste of resources.

  5. Shirley M
    December 13, 2022

    Start sacking the incompetents. If the incompetents are allowed to carry on regardless (and often rewarded) it removes any incentive for the others to take up the slack, so people stop trying. It destroys morale and can bring a whole department (or company) down. Why would the civil service or any other workplace be different? If necessary, make a whole department redundant, and make them reapply for the jobs but with new contracts that include performance related requirements. Don’t rehire the lazy, the feckless and the troublemakers. They’d soon buck up.

    1. turboterrier
      December 13, 2022

      Shirley M
      Well said Shirley, it happens a lot in the private sector. Introduce corporate change and everybody reapplies for their job. Every department no matter how small each has its own individual direction statement and set targets with six monthly performance reviews.
      If you get the Internal Customer Care right within the whole organisation the external clients benefit and efficiency all round improves.

    2. SM
      December 13, 2022

      But Shirley, suppose imposing ‘performance-related requirements hurts employees’ sensitivities’, or makes them feel discriminated against, or imposes regulations that do not align with their personal cultural opinions?

      I am getting the strong impression that today’s employees feel they are doing their employers an immense favour by even turning up at their place of work … oops, forgot about the right to work from home, but still can’t get my head around how that is going to happen for plumbers, surgeons, farmers and train drivers etc.

      1. Shirley M
        December 13, 2022

        It doesn’t just help the employer. Once everything settles down the remaining employees are much happier, having got rid of the freeloaders, the obstructive ones and the work shy and they also feel more valued. It’s a win-win for everyone.

      2. Ian Wragg
        December 13, 2022

        Wait until we start training blind pilots because some woke individual says blind people are discriminated against in aviation.

    3. Lifelogic
      December 13, 2022

      Start perhaps with the two incompetents in numbers 10 and 11. Hunt was totally incompetent as a long serving health minister in failing to reform the dire unworkable communist NHS also with his recent vast tax increases (which will reduce UK investment, push more onto benefits (+ barter/cash in hand) and push many rich & hard working overseas). Sunak’s moronic policies as Chancellor of:- tax, borrow, print, currency debase, lock downs, fraudulent loans, deliberately causing inflation and the endless waste combined with the net zero insanity have caused the current inflationary & recessionary mess.

      These problems were caused, not by Putin’s appalling war (though this has not helped), but by the insane Net Zero intermittent renewable agenda, the lockdowns, Sunak’s & BoE’s endless money printing and the endless waste of tax payers money on things like eat out to help out, test and trace, duff PPE, HS2, bloated government, inaction on illegal and low skilled immigration, the net harm vaccines, the huge lockdown, loans for largely pointless/worthless degrees…

    4. Sharon
      December 13, 2022

      Shirley M

      “ Start sacking the incompetents. If the incompetents are allowed to carry on regardless (and often rewarded) it removes any incentive for the others to take up the slack, so people stop trying. It destroys morale and can bring a whole department (or company) down. Why would the civil service or any other workplace be different? If necessary, make a whole department redundant, and make them reapply for the jobs but with new contracts that include performance related requirements. Don’t rehire the lazy, the feckless and the troublemakers. They’d soon buck up.”

      Very well put, Shirley! That’s absolutely what should be done, no pussy footing about.

      1. turboterrier
        December 13, 2022

        Sharon
        As they used to say on the Grey Funnel Line:- Sign on or ship out.

    5. Dave Andrews
      December 13, 2022

      To do all you say requires management competence, which is absent from the civil service and government.

    6. Stred
      December 13, 2022

      This reminds me of when I met two of my old secondary school teachers in a pub. They were among the competent ones. I asked them which of the headmasters they thought produced the best results. They both replied at the same time that it had been best when there wasn’t one and the deputy had run it from the staff room.

    7. Stred
      December 13, 2022

      This reminds me of when I met two of my old secondary school teachers in a pub. They were among the competent ones. I asked them which of the headmasters they thought produced the best results. They both replied at the same time that it had been best when there wasn’t one and the deputy had run it from the staff room..

    8. Lynn Atkinson
      December 13, 2022

      The incompetents are the Ministers Shirley, and we the people will sack them have no fear. The Conservative Association in Matt Hancock’s constituency has preempted voters by doing the job already. More Conservative Associations need to follow suit so that the electorate understand that the Conservative Party (as opposed to the Party Machine and Parliamentary Party) are on the ball.
      The Associations need to thumb their noses at the Party Machine and SELECT anybody they like, the best and most able people, tried and tested and found to be Conservative in every instinct. They must remember we are NOT looking for ‘nice’ people, we are looking for champions who will go into the lions den and fight for us! I’m speaking of the civil service rather than HM Loyal Opposition! Tough, educated, commanding – more Tebbits, more Gills, more Redwoods. The Associations need to strike a deal with whatever the Brexit Party is now called, so that real conservatives are not opposed.
      That is the ONLY hope for the Tory Party. These imposters must be ousted up and down the country, we will know when they are because the membership of those association will leap as the genuine Tory members return.

  6. Anselm
    December 13, 2022

    I have two very successful sons. Both work almost entirely from home. But they have to deliver. I am not at all sure about the people who run the passports, the NHS, the legal system. And this, of course, affects the railways.
    Targets? Well, if I go to see the doctor about a strange pain, then I do not want to be limited to ten minutes! If it is a minor matter, then I don’t mind seeing a nurse. If I want to commute, then I have to ask why I need to.
    I suspect that the extra money for the NHS was spent on other than wages for the people who actually cope with the patients. Where has it gone?
    Nobody seems to worry about this and, as you say, Sir John, you are almost alone in asking these questions. I am minded of the recent Post Office scandal when the highly paid CEO allowed her staff to be put in jail for a computer mess.
    If only they would visit round and talk to their minions! Consultants’ pay has fallen faster than any other branch of the NHS. they used to run the hospitals!

    1. Stred
      December 13, 2022

      The NHS has secured 500 million mRNA vaccine boosters for a virus strain that was superceded in 2020 with an omicron element which will also become redundant. The price of these was around £20 but Pfizer is increasing this to £100. GPs are paid £20 to inject.
      This is around 7 boosters per head of UK population. The cost could be £20 billion or more. Let’s hope that the option allows free cancellation. What on Earth was management thinking when they secured 500 million?

      1. formula57
        December 13, 2022

        @ Stred ” What on Earth was management thinking when they secured 500 million? – the number of new arrivals by dinghy?

    2. Berkshire Alan
      December 13, 2022

      Anselm
      I suspect that much of the increased money given to Local Authorities, the Civil Service, the NHS, the Police, and a host of other organisations, has simply gone on paying the pensions of past employees.
      The pension schemes and terms of all of the above are exceedingly generous, and quite honestly are completely unaffordable, and certainly are if they were based simply on employee and a more normal level of company type contributions offered in the private sector.
      We only ever hear the moaning of pay with the employees of these organisations, we never get to hear of the advantages of extended holidays, full sick pay, flexible working hours, and the huge redundancy payments if the jobs for life ever end, etc, etc.

    3. John Hatfield
      December 13, 2022

      If the salary structure is any indication, the Left-wing bureaucrats who run the health service value equality and diversity officers above nurses, ambulance drivers and junior doctors.
      With seven million people waiting for operations, how can the NHS justify spending 76 grand, plus perks, on a ‘Head of Leadership, Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing’?

  7. Bill B.
    December 13, 2022

    Time to name those underperforming public sector CEOs, methinks.

    1. Berkshire Alan
      December 13, 2022

      Bill
      Not just name, them drag them along to an interview, so that they can be put under the spotlinght.

      Ask them the simple questions.

      So where has the last £5 billion the taxpayer has given you been spent ?

    2. a-tracy
      December 13, 2022

      Time for the news stations and papers to interview the other side, these six managing CEOS. Is it six CEOs for England alone? We hear the union’s side on our daily news and talk of ‘real’ terms of 1% increases, but what were the actual % increases each year for the past three or five years?

      What % did each grade base get, and how many in-year increase bands are there in each grade? What % uprate is that each time?

      What time of day does the 30% pay enhancement kick in, and what day does the 60% increase in base pay kick in?

      What grades, in particular, are short of applicants? Is it the bands over grade five that require a degree? or bands 2 – 4? How many vacancies per grade? Which regions are short all evenly? Why haven’t these CEOs made available enough nursing degree placements if it is those grades?

    3. turboterrier
      December 13, 2022

      Bill B
      Correct.

    4. Lifelogic
      December 13, 2022

      That’s rather easy but much quicker to name those few actually delivering any value for money – if you can actually find any. Many are being paid large salaries yet do positive harm to the private sector to living standards, productivity, jobs and the economy.

      Not their money & not they who benefit from the “services” the provide so they care not what they spend nor what value, if any, they deliver.

  8. Donna
    December 13, 2022

    Nigel on GB News revealed yesterday that one small gas-fired power station charge National Grid 100 times the usual rate for a Gigawatt hour of electricity: £6,000 for a GW hour instead of the long-term average of £60. And that cost will be charged to consumers.

    So much for “cheap, reliable, renewable energy.” And this is ENTIRELY the fault of the idiots in the Westminster Uni-Party.

    Labour lost Government in ’79 when it lost control of the Public Sector. This Government has lost control of EVERYTHING. The Civil Servants do what they are allowed to do. The Quangocrats do what they have been empowered to do.

    What is the point of the pathetic, cowardly, over-educated but inexperienced empty suits on the green benches in Parliament. If they can’t or won’t govern the country, they should get out of the way and let another Party emerge who will.

    1. Timaction
      December 13, 2022

      Exactly. What is their point. Totally incompetent.

    2. turboterrier
      December 13, 2022

      Donna
      You are right but the fear is we will end up with the same types in suits but with a different coloured tie.
      Perhaps what doesn’t help is that we judge government and never the parliament as a whole. If there had been a strong active opposition things might have been a tad different.
      The real problem is there is not a fag paper between them on the really important issues like Net Zero immigration NHS and energy to name a few

    3. Iago
      December 13, 2022

      They should lose all public pensions and emoluments. They allowed, promoted and tried to enforce the gene-altering injections and continue to do so despite the evidence of the death and disease caused.

    4. Mark B
      December 13, 2022

      Hear hear.

      We voted Leave to restore power to our parliament and MP’s, onlt for them to give it away or surrender to the will of others.

      We need an almighty clearout.

  9. Cuibono
    December 13, 2022

    Never mind all that.
    I swear JR that if the sane are not more wary than they have been…
    There will be another lockdown…with masks…the whole lot.
    The “experts”…despite all the deaths and hepatitis and now Strep A…have begun pushing for it.
    And OMG…if you think things are bad now!

    1. Lynn Atkinson
      December 13, 2022

      Look at China. The people pegging even that totalitarian politburo back.
      Don’t allow it to happen! Take a stand!

  10. Dave Andrews
    December 13, 2022

    I note yesterday National Grid were importing large quantities when the price was extremely high. Now prices are lower, they are exporting.
    Can someone tell National Grid buying high and selling low is economy the wrong way round?

    1. Mike Wilson
      December 14, 2022

      Not much wind yesterday

  11. Stephen Reay
    December 13, 2022

    Sir John , you can blame everyone else, but the blame lies with your government. All these problems have happened on your watch over the last 12 year’s.
    I’m afraid the Brexit I hoped for is now a failed project. I voted for Brexit, but would now happily vote to rejoin the EU. Brexit has been a utter failure and todate I have yet to see any benefits.

    1. Narrow Shoulders
      December 13, 2022

      How is the failure to marshal civil servants an EU matter?

      How is high gas and electricity prices an EU matter?

      How is appalling leadership in government an EU matter?

      How many EU laws have been put aside? We are still operating as though we were in the EU so going back in would not change the state of affairs. To truly change we need to embrace our freedoms and grow a pair.

    2. Sir Joe Soap
      December 13, 2022

      That’s what they want you to do. Don’t fall for it.

    3. Roy Grainger
      December 13, 2022

      Brexit was an enabling step not a policy in itself. For example because of Brexit PM Starmer will be able to subsidise any industry he chooses (steel for example) which he wouldn’t have been able to inside the EU. So it is not Brexit that has failed but rather the Conservative government who have failed to take advantage of it.

    4. Berkshire Alan
      December 13, 2022

      Stephen
      Agreed our Politicians have failed to get almost any advantage from Brexit, but for goodness sake, do you honestly think they could negotiate a good deal with the EU to re-join, we would simply be taken to the cleaners for no gain at all.
      Face facts, apart from a few sensible Mp’s (our host being one) all Political Parties in Westminster are bloody useless, you cannot get the old fag paper between any of their policies now, so the taxpayer and voters are stuffed with no alternatives and no choice.
      Actions speak louder than words

    5. Mickey Taking
      December 13, 2022

      what do you think you would get on asking to rejoin?

    6. Shirley M
      December 13, 2022

      Brexit is not a failure. It is the failure to implement it, by our undemocratic politicians.

    7. Lynn Atkinson
      December 13, 2022

      You have NOT looked at the state of the EU! The EU is not the brink of permanent destruction, the Euro about to collapse! You want to be part of that? Even those who voted Remain would now not do so again.

    8. IanT
      December 13, 2022

      I’m not sure what you expected Stephan?

      I didn’t expect much to change right away. Not after being tied up in the EU for over 40 years, nothing was going to happen quickly. Unfortunately, I’ve not been disappointed from that perspective. I wanted power (and blame where neccessary) returned to Westminster. We couldn’t elect (or get rid) of the Socialist idiots in Brussels but we do have some control over the (equally Socialist) idiots in Westminster – so that is one tiny step forward. We need the Public to wake up and start pushing back against the current green/fiscal orthodoxy that all the current parties are pushing. We used to have a Civil Service that was half competant, now we seem to have something much more ‘Italian’ in flavour. It’s been a long time since I lived in Italy and that might be unfair – the Italians might well be better (by comparison) these days.

    9. Christine
      December 13, 2022

      EU countries are in a similar mess to the UK. How will rejoining the EU help? Our Government has the power to do whatever it wants but fails to do anything about it. I’m sick of them signing, then hiding behind international treaties. Just do what needs doing. Drop net zero, return the bogus asylum seekers, cut immigration, get Brexit done, mine the energy resources under our feet, get workers back into the office, remove all woke public sector positions, get the lazy benefit funded 16 hour a week workers into full time employment, put pressure on the Charities Commission to investigate the rising number of bogus charities that have been allowed to proliferate, reduce the size of the state. The list is endless but all we get is fiddler’s whilst the UK burns. Funny how they found the power to lock us in our homes and impose fines during the pandemic. I’m getting tired of Sir John blaming an out of control public sector that politicians created.

    10. graham1946
      December 13, 2022

      That’s exactly the result the Remoaners wanted, to turn Brexiters into Re-joiners. Brexit has not failed, our Remoaner governments and Parliament since 2016 are the failures – they never wanted it, had contempt for the result and never intended for the public to have the temerity to vote against their wishes. We will never be permitted another referendum as we failed to toe the All Party line. All we need is a proper government, not third rate seat warmers waiting to re-join and off load their responsibilities to foreigners for an easy life and we will see some benefit. It has all taken far too long just to achieve what you state. With the present set-up we will be waiting a very long time.

    11. a-tracy
      December 13, 2022

      Stephen, how has Brexit affected railways?

      NHS – 55,000 out of the 1.2 million staff in the English NHS are citizens of other EU countries, according to the English health service’s Electronic Staff Record. This includes doctors; nurses; other professionals like paramedics and pharmacists; support workers providing care; and administrative staff.23 May 2016

      How many EU employees in the NHS in 2022 – This amounts to one in six of NHS staff with a known nationality. Between them, these staff hold over 200 different nationalities. Over 95,000 are Asian nationals (7.2%), while Over 70,000 are EU nationals (5.3%). This data is correct at June 2022.22 Nov 2022.

      It appears to have gone up by 15,000.

      Brexit has nothing to do with passport issuing or probation either.

    12. MFD
      December 13, 2022

      And then Stephen you will have fallen for the scam by the bullies of the nasty left.
      Follow our fathers and fight for our country- no surrender!

    13. Mark B
      December 13, 2022

      BREXIT was about returning this country in terms of governance back to the days BEFORE we joined the EU. The fact that those who claim to act for and on our behalf have refused to take the opportunity offered is not the fault of BREXIT but of those who we placed our trust in.

  12. BOF
    December 13, 2022

    These are the executives that, when they fail, are quietly moved sideways to another quango usually with a pay rise and eventually a ‘K’ along with a bloated pension. If they are failing they should be dismissed.

    The energy crisis was not caused by the war. The failings were exposed by the war. It was caused by many years of failure, by government, to ensure UK energy security by using our own resources, and the focus on unworkable, intermittent and unaffordable so called green energy. The result, highest energy prices in Europe while importing coal, gas and electricity via interconnectors, as covered yesterday.

    1. Walt
      December 13, 2022

      Well said, BOF.

    2. Ian B
      December 13, 2022

      @BOF +1

      Jobs-for-the-boys in a corruptin Government and Parliment – that is not democracy

    3. Mark B
      December 13, 2022

      +1

      And unless they admit their fault in all this there is no hope of change.

      We are heading for disaster.

  13. Narrow Shoulders
    December 13, 2022

    Today’s diary entry is an ode to the “efficiencies” of working from home.

    The coming recession may redress the balance between employee and employer, let’s hope it does for the sake of the customers who do not benefit.

  14. Walt
    December 13, 2022

    A good post, Sir John. Action needed, as commented today by others, e.g., Turboterrier and Shirley M.
    Problem: you are not in cabinet. Can the levers of power be in your hands? If not, who in Parliament also has your vision and has the capacity and courage to act upon it?

  15. Sir Joe Soap
    December 13, 2022

    Well it’s all a mess and the backstop is to raise taxes on everyone, which is what your friend the Snake has done. The more difficult job has to be undertaken in a few years, post-Snake, post-Starmer, to bring back a country where stuff works and people get paid on results, not dodgy government contracts or union power.

  16. Bloke
    December 13, 2022

    Performance related pay does the job.
    Then the bozos whose effort is worthless costs them dearly for wasting our time.

  17. Javelin
    December 13, 2022

    According to the BBC just 0.3% of illegal immigrants have been arrested under the new Borders and Nationality Act.

    The whole country knows the ministers and members of the WEF young leaders club want a mass immigration. London and Manchester are low less than 50% British.

    One spark and it could go up.

    Wars have been fought over far less.

  18. Roy Grainger
    December 13, 2022

    Good article. You fail to draw the obvious conclusion though – it is the Ministers who are incompetent and clueless and it is they who have failed to properly manage the public sector CEOs that they have appointed.

  19. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    Good morning Sir John
    Sorry to sound like a worn out record, we the electorate give Governments the authority to dip into our wallets and take taxes, with no real redress until election time.

    In return we the electorate permit Government to spend the money they have taken from ‘us’, for that privileged expect them to use that money wisely and have a full grip on how and were that money is used.

    So to suggest that our taxes are given to entities, that don’t seemingly have to account or be responsible for its spend is misplaced.

    Missing is the accountability, if Government can’t or wont step up and do the management job we pay them for, it is probably time for them to go.

  20. Utter Tyranny
    December 13, 2022

    Ok John explain to us how banks can just confiscate money of a private business they don’t like.

  21. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    Good morning Sir John

    How can anyone get taxpayers hard earned money and not be fully responsible and accountable?

    That is plain lunacy. If that is the case let me have my share. If that is the case remove Government and Parliament they have no job

  22. MPC
    December 13, 2022

    Your post is perceptive but reads as a lament for a government that might have been. There’s surely no way, with only two years until the next election, that this government is even going to try and effect changes that will largely only bear fruit after the election. Then here’s the latest weakening over legislating on the Northern Ireland Protocol, and failure to deal properly with illegal immigration. Two critical issues for most voters that could be solved promptly, but which won’t be.

  23. agricola
    December 13, 2022

    You use up many column inches to say in effect that government and the management structures it creates are useless. How many ministers could hold down senior management positions in Honda or the senior managers in the NHS or any other government body hold down similar in Toyota. None I would submit.

    I read that over 47% of those employed in the NHS are not medically trained in any way. Allowing for plumbers, electricians, communications and electronics engineers I would suggest 47% is gross overstaffing. That 47% amounts to 650,000 people. Get rid of 150,000 of them and you could afford to pay for a similar number of medically trained people. The so called deficit.

    The medically trained are from above average intelligence to quite exceptional in many cases. They know where the problems are and are quite capable of sorting them through employing Kaizen structures. They do not need a top heavy management structure, and even more of the 650,000 could be dispensed with. The principal should be applied throughout government departments.

    Where possible activities should be contracted to the private sector, who go out of business if they are unproductive. Finally we should all ask what is government for and where it is a drag on the private sector wealth creators. Do we want an umbelical from cradle to grave, or do we want the freedom to exceed our potential.

  24. George Brooks.
    December 13, 2022

    The title of your post today says it all ”managing the public sector” which is exactly what the government is NOT doing.

    What is worse is that cabinet has no leadership. The PM has made several statements proposing courses of action to deal with the problems facing the country, only to be followed by complete inaction.

    Lynch is running the railways into the ground, the many divisions that comprise the NHS are fighting like rats in a sack and getting nowhere, the Border Force and the Home Office have tied themselves into a legal mess and can’t stop the channel crossings, all against a background of energy insecurity with ministers and a PM who are too scared to issue a license to use our own gas and oil.

    Put Net Zero on the back burner, open up the gas and oil wells, tell Lynch that he won’t get a penny until the plans to modernise the rail system are implemented, strip out several layers of useless NHS management and give the cost saving to the nurses.

  25. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    “They say an independent Central Bank and the outbreak of a European war have brought on the inflation. The public services are these days largely run by independent boards with professional management. It is their job to get on with the employees, settle the pay and raise the productivity to help pay for it.“

    The Central Bank charges it its fails on the Taxpayer, under this Government they(the taxpayer) has no say. That is not improvement that’s failure.

    Independent boards and professional management, they do not report, own any responsibility and are not accountable? Yet they want my money. The Government gives them my money but is also not responsible, what sort of fair rational system is that?

  26. Mike Wilson
    December 13, 2022

    Again, an article blaming everyone else. Strikes me a fish rots from the head. Surely the blame lies with ministers.

    You should pass a law that says if public sector managers refuse to implement policy they will be sacked for gross misconduct and lose their pension.

  27. Geoffrey Berg
    December 13, 2022

    I have commented before on this site that the present failures in the public sector are primarily systemic. Generally in the public sector there is no genuine competition, no financial discipline of having to make a profit to survive and furthermore generally nobody involved in public sector management personally gains financially by financial efficiency in their activity nor loses by inefficiency. None of this can really be patched up in the public sector. Change needs to be systemic. In addition to full privatisation many services, even health and education, can be publicly funded but privately and competitively operated. Any changes (such as warning or changing Chief Executives) that are not systemic are not going to make a permanent improvement. So where possible systemic change to the public sector is needed. Where privatisation is not feasible fallback measures such as stopping working from home (where direct supervision is not possible) and eliminating inefficient or ineffective elements of public sector jobs should be enacted.

  28. Michael Saxton
    December 13, 2022

    There is a malaise throughout the public sector, it’s just not working and this is the calamitous result of 12 years of incompetence by Conservative administrations. It’s crystal clear successive Prime Ministers have adopted liberal policies and appointed far too many inexperienced, weak and incompetent Ministers. The incessant liberalisation and obsession with Net Zero, colour, race and gender has produced a selfish, lazy, public sector workforce. Supervision and discipline has broken down.

  29. Lynn Atkinson
    December 13, 2022

    The deadly point of your article, Sir John, is that all the facades set up to protect the elected Ministers from blame for the repeated 1979 disaster have been done in vane.
    The electorate hold Ministers accountable. Better for Ministers that they have the authority to match their responsibility. Have they the wherewithal to grasp that? I doubt it.
    But you have told them.

  30. The Prangwizard
    December 13, 2022

    As for the need for action on the streets so to speak, we need to identify by name which bodies and departments and regulatory bodies should be abolished completely.

    Changing the boss may have some beneficial effect but this will only be short term as the failing and incompetent system will quickly overwhelm any newcomer.

    Which body should go first? Can we have a name please.

    The ‘broken window’ philosophy should be applied as it will improve behaviours but closures must continue. One closure will not be enough.

  31. Bryan Harris
    December 13, 2022

    Surely the answer has to be for Ministers to provide instructions to top mandarins and CEO’s that are unambiguous, and then measure if or how much those instructions were carried out.

    If instructions were realised then those concerned get to keep their job – Time ministers got tough with those under them to make things work better!

    The government does indeed legislate too much – it needs to engage more in discussions, start to remove the more oppressive and stagnation causing regulations, take it’s collective head out of the sand, and start doing something about the myriad of problems it has caused which the public are most interested in.

  32. a-tracy
    December 13, 2022

    Railways – their rail industry, like many others after the pandemic, is shrinking in use. Offices are empty all around and people, particularly women don’t seem to wish to go back as they save childcare when their children can make their way home and don’t need after-school care.

    Striking all the time and letting people down will not help the railway business grow and give them better terms. So who is going to be expected to pay the extra?

    Total passenger revenue was £2.1bn in the quarter 1 April 2022 to 30 Jun 2022 (dataportal) which equates to 70.4% of the £3bn three years ago. Journeys made by season ticket are just 28.4% of pre-pandemic use (two years ago). https://dataportal.orr.gov.uk/statistics/usage/passenger-rail-usage/

    Inflation: 2018 2.478%; 2019 1.791%; 2020 0.851%; 2021 2.588%. Inflation has been up over 5% since November 2021. How did their pay terms change since 2018? What % did they get in their annual uplift or was their pay held in the pandemic when they were paid 100% of earnings instead of 80% when furloughed? During the first three months of the pandemic, places were compulsorily closed or were every train running near empty on the usual timetable?

  33. Kenneth
    December 13, 2022

    I noticed from an RNS from Network Rail yesterday that they seem more interested in trading bonds and currencies (and doing an amatuerish job at it) than running the railways!

  34. a-tracy
    December 13, 2022

    There has been a collapse of productivity in processing asylum applications.
    How can they process people when their hands are tied by lawyers who insist people can’t be removed? Why were their targets dropped because they were made unachievable by Theresa May, why isn’t she being interviewed and held to account?

  35. a-tracy
    December 13, 2022

    There are delays in getting probate approvals and in passport renewals.

    I don’t understand this because both services don’t come out of general taxation they charge extra for their services. Are their services met by those additional payments or not?

    Passports, Where I believe the government goes wrong is they should force this public company to use some of its budgets in the passport office to advertise on tv to renew your passport now in the winter when request numbers drop away and tell the public what are the peak times; google can do it on shopping times when stores are busy or not so why can’t this service? Can passport staff book holidays in the most active peak weeks and months? I had a chap in the office say he would wait till April because his passport was due to run out in July. I said, ‘no, renew now at the lower cost and make sure you get it back for when you need it in July’. I know someone that lost a job because their passport wasn’t ready within ten weeks.

    Probate delays – eighteen months to get a solicitor logged with evidence of receipt probate claim process, the will was written and evidenced with a solicitor all the relevant paperwork gathered up and sent in by registered post; two years a flat stood empty, racking up an £8000 bill for management charges on this empty flat and a contribution to the ‘sinking fund’ on the retirement complex that was unexpected, one of the key beneficiaries died in the meantime. This money would have made his end-of-life care easier to fund.

  36. William
    December 13, 2022

    Fully agree that Ministers are responsible for mess that Public Sectors are in, however there is one blatant factor missing in your article, WFH!
    This toxic element must be stamped out in the Public Sector now, not in 3 months or 6 months but now. It is ridiculous that Staff have access to personal data, possibly on an unregulated, unmonitored computer system without sufficient hacking protection. WFH must stop now Sir John.

  37. Ralph Corderoy
    December 13, 2022

    ‘Productivity has stagnated all this century in the UK public sector, despite huge sums spent on digital processing and despite the decline of in person service.’

    Productivity, public and private, has stagnated because more money was always available, through borrowing and monetary inflation, to avoid the need to seek improvements. ‘Zombies, zombies every where, All standing on the brink.’

    I agree the NHS England board-members should appear in front of the cameras but meanwhile the Government should keep explaining that removing the suffering of price inflation by increasing wages fuels a second round of inflation and it’s a vicious circle.

  38. ChrisS
    December 13, 2022

    Listening to Mick Lynch on the Today Programme this morning, his real motives became abundantly clear : His previous not-so-hidden agenda is to use his members as cannon fodder in an attempt to change society into some kind of perverted socialist paradise.

    I suspect that this is the real agenda of many Union Leaders and is out of step with voter intentions, as even Starmer has realised, but can’t say openly, unlike his brave and more honest shadow Health Secretary.
    If Union leaders keep up the wave of strikes, all they will do is damage Labour and the Conservative Party will continue to regain lost ground. There is already evidence of this with Labour’s lead now cut to 11%.

    This is certainly a lead that the Conservatives can overturn in the next two years, but only if backbenchers remain disciplined in Parliament.

  39. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    Look at the situation from the perspective of those that pay for this massive ever growing ever demanding Public Sector. The Chancellor and this Government are demanding more money to shore up its own ineptitude, so much so the UK tax grab is at a 50-70 year high.
    In order to cover the increases in tax people are having to adjust, cut back and balance their own balance sheet to survive. They cant opt out, if they don’t pay it could even be prison.
    Yet the Government the Manger, the CEO of the Public Sector by its own actions is not interested in the quality of service, accountability or responsible from those they just simple give our money too, its our money so why care! There is no cut back, no glorious balancing of the books, there is no shaping things around income, because an income is just something they can demand.
    If there was ever a ‘them and us’ Government is demonstrating it ‘writ-large’

  40. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    If the Central Bank is independent, how come the Taxpayer is compensating them for their mistakes? That’s not independence that is dependants.

    1. Ian B
      December 13, 2022

      @Ian B – Likewise with all other claims for the need to be independent. If they cant work within a budgetary framework, deliver targets and services without then calling on the taxpayer they are dependants. They should surly be working a fixed delivery contract, just as with any other company that supplies the State.

  41. Original Richard
    December 13, 2022

    “So what should the Government do?”

    What about sackings?

    No civil servant, quango or state employee ever gets sacked for laziness, negligence, incompetence, malfeasance, corruption, misbehaviour, insubordination or treachery, so why would anything change?

    And why are there no sackings ?

    Because these state employees are working just as our current Parliament intends. The whole purpose of appointing far left “independent” quangos and continuing with the “not fit for purpose” civil service is to enable Parliament to enact their real policies whilst using the intransigence and/or incompetence of quangos and the civil service to provide Parliament with an excuse for not carrying out their election manifesto promises or the wishes of the majority of the country.

    And why is it happening?

    Because Britain is to become a de-industrialised backwater totally dependent upon other nations for its continued economic existence and to maintain the barest quality of life for its hapless residents. Hence the Net Zero Strategy to destroy our energy supplies and the economy and massive immigration to be a world majority country composed of multiple distinct tribes each with their own ideas of culture and laws.

  42. Ian B
    December 13, 2022

    Sir John

    ‘a country also facing high energy prices from the war’ I would take issue with you on that. It was the Conservative Government’s own neglect that has caused the UK’s energy situation. A war in Europe would have had no effect had the UK Government had not shunned UK production in favour of buying from unreliable sources.

    Inflation was also in the Governments gift to control, but instead this Conservative Government choose to offload its duties in the name of … I don’t know what. Stupidity maybe…

    Having a Parliament, a Parliament that chooses the Government, has been lent its power’s by the electorate for one single purpose to ensure a solid resilient economy.
    A proper working resilient economy is never effected by political events in a World that is always in turmoil. A Government that can’t see that and protect us from that shouldn’t be in office. You have to ask what would these numpties do if something serious were to happen.

  43. Bert Young
    December 13, 2022

    I have mentioned before – if there is a problem in the running and performance of any organisation then , where necessary , always start and change its ” top”. Goals and period objectives must always be clearly defined and the system of reporting must be regular and effectively supervised . Ministers who delegate are the first under the microscope and must have relevant experience . Apart from periodic voting the public are powerless .

  44. Keith from Leeds
    December 13, 2022

    Hello Sir John,
    You are relatively innocent of the real world for a very intelligent man! People do what you inspect, not what you expect. As other writers have stated, start sacking people who don’t perform. From permanent secretaries to public service CEOs, start at the top & work downward until people start doing what they are told & paid to do. The Civil Service, Quangos & Public Bodies are too big to run efficiently. So, for example, I suggest sacking or making redundant 90% of Home Office Staff who have failed miserably in their responsibilities. Then you will find a smaller, leaner department suddenly becomes easier to manage & starts working properly, as well as costing less! The same applies across government & then you might find you can afford some tax cuts as well as repaying debt!

  45. Cuibono
    December 13, 2022

    The tories have succeeded in creating economic polarisation.
    Two sets of people living by totally different rules of financial reality.
    Those on benefits with central heating exhausts billowing into the frosty air.
    Christmas lights glaring into the should-be-dark night….ALL NIGHT.
    And the hapless tax-paying workers freeze. Their houses unlit.
    Never wonder why the tories are so unpopular!
    And why the country is just NOT WORKING.

  46. a-tracy
    December 13, 2022

    Hunt added: “To get the British economy back on track, we have a plan which will help to more than halve inflation next year – but that requires some difficult decisions now.”

    What is the plan? Do tell us, what are we supposed to be doing to reduce this, spend less on everything but the essentials in our lives, well how does that help struggling businesses?

    17 Nov 2022 — The National Living Wage (NLW) will rise to £10.42 from 1 April 2023, an increase of 92 pence or 9.7 per cent. So if the public sector is moaning now what will they be like in April.

    This level of increase at the bottom won’t just be restrained to the lowest grades, people demand their differentials, so actually, the people at the bottom end up no better off, but the government is as taxes rise by 10% and debt levels can drop.

  47. No Longer Anonymous
    December 13, 2022

    Never mind blaming public services.

    The 80 seat majority Tory Party leads in being the most useless organisation in Britain today.

    For one thing, it has narrowed the gap between people who get out of bed and go to work and those who don’t.

    Then there’re the failures on energy, immigration and the sabotage of Brexit…

  48. XY
    December 13, 2022

    Are you still writing for Lib Dem Home? Why?

    But please keep rebelling against Sunak – 40 MPs offsets any majority remaining so simply refusing to vote for anything but the mandatory stuff should see him gone in double-quick time.

    And it needs to be fast if you’re to have any hope at the next GE. The new movement to put candidate selection back to the assocs is the only way forward – get rid of these Lib Dems in blue rosettes that have been elected in recent years. Sunak will not win an election.

  49. no other choice?
    December 13, 2022

    the banks are now deciding what free speach they dont like. Its game over humanity, we just ruled from Central bank, the politicians no longer needed?

  50. acorn
    December 13, 2022

    I think we can be fairly certain that this Tory government has no more idea how to fix the UK’s post Brexit disaster, than next door’s English Boxer Dog. Who still insists in sticking his nose up your arse every time you contact him. Which, basically, is what “leave” voters have been doing to Tory party arses since the referendum. As I have said previously. It is easy for neoliberals to fool voters; but, difficult to get those voters to admit that they have been fooled.

    1. Peter2
      December 13, 2022

      Ridiculous nonsense acorn.
      Childish lefty propaganda.
      You can do better than this.

      1. acorn
        December 14, 2022

        Q.E.D. I rest my case.

    2. Lynn Atkinson
      December 14, 2022

      The neo-cons and neo-liberals are NOT Tories. They are the globalists who love the EU and hate the sovereign nation states. You in other words.

  51. 37/6
    December 13, 2022

    Drivers aren’t actually on strike today but seeing as you mention them they have already taken a three year’s pay freeze without quibble. What they ask for is something that mitigates inflation against a backdrop of taxpayer funded company profits and huge, taxpayer funded, director bonuses for the same failure to adapt to the new transport climate – this is what has made even the most conservative of workers opt for strike and makes it impossible to defend the Tories.

    Other workers (public and private sector, rail or otherwise) are much less fortunate and find the benefits of working (or not) working are getting pretty marginal.

    Tories are not the worker’s friend, the signal is loud and clear. You have index linked welfare.

    Sir John. You really have to start getting tough on those who won’t find work and being choosy about what pay is inflationary and harmful to the tax payer and what isn’t (director’s and shareholders’ isn’t, apparently) is what is losing you the argument.

    Then there is the heating, free holiday accommodation and pocket money lavished on newcomers of doubtful origin. Only an idiot would stand up for the Tories now.

    1. a-tracy
      December 14, 2022

      37/6 – There are 28 major UK train operators across the UK, typically covering a geographical area or region. Which of them have “huge, taxpayer-funded, director bonuses for the same failure to adapt to the new transport climate”? All of them?

      Train operating companies (TOCs) run passenger services, leasing and managing stations from Network Rail. c2c are the most satisfied commuters in the country. How do the nationalised TOCs run by the Scottish, UK, Welsh governments compare, do they take less subsidy from the taxpayer, are they self-supporting?

      You should read the Guardian, their journalists believe that the Tories aren’t doing enough for the none-workers.

  52. formula57
    December 13, 2022

    Yes, we do want Ministers to “Get a grip”. Plenty of others have responsibilities but the rot is so widespread now any rescue takes those at the top to act.

    So will Ministers “Get a grip”? Even where willing, are they able? Today Sky News reports “The PM says those who enter the UK illegally will be “swiftly returned” and MPs will set an “annual quota” to determine how many asylum seekers can come to the country”. Awww bless. Fancy the PM thinking that. It is as if Mrs. Patel’s three years as Home Secretary never happened, which of course they might as well have not.

  53. XY
    December 14, 2022

    “What the government needs to do is to mentor and encourage their chief executives…”

    Mentoring chief executives? How did they get to be chief execs if they need to be mentored…

    By MPs with little or no real life experience?

    I thnk the problem lies a little deeper than the need for a little “mentoring” of the top level person in each department.

  54. AncientPopeye
    December 14, 2022

    Why do you think the Leader of the Opposition goes unchallenged by the PM when he claims the ails of the NHS is the Governments problem when in my opinion it is the lack of good management in the NHS. Surely a few of the CEO’s should be fired to concentrate the minds of the other feet draggers. They would never keep their jobs in the real world.

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