I was sent an interesting email this week. It came from someone who knows how the changes at a particular quango are going. It makes worrying reading.
The bottom line is that spending goes up in the short term in order to achieve a closure of a quango and the transfer of duties elsewhere. 14 administrative staff lose their jobs, but 7 new management grade staff are recruited, along with three adminstrative staff hired in another location. As a result the early years costs include redundancy and pension payments that more than wipe out the small staff savings.
The public sector ought to have a huge advantage. It can offer continuity of employment, in return for asking flexibility about duties. The traditional civil service regularly switches people within a given department from one area to something very different. Sometimes staff are switched between departments, as recently happened over the change of Competition responsibilities between Culture and BIS.
The same should apply to quangoland. Taxpayers do not want to be paying redundancy payments, and then hiring fees within a similar organisaiton owing to organisational changes. The main mechanism for bringing public spending under control should be cutting recruitment. As people leave, others from within the public sector should be offered promotion if the job is essential or the post should be abolished and any valuable part of the work reassigned.
The Cabinet Office needs to get a grip. We do not want big reorganisational costs with the cost savings delayed for several years or never materialising.
The remorseless langauge of cuts reflects three differing realities. In some cases new budgets are tough and require actual cuts that are not popular. In other cases, like this one, the cuts themselves are expensive, leading to worrying redundancy payments and special pension contrbutions. In a third set of cases the cuts are political, as a bad public sector management wants to make a point by doing something damaging. I read in some places that I do not think there are any cuts. As I always point out, there are indeed cuts, despite public spending going up every year for 5 years in cash terms.