Wednesday, 3 October 2007

5,846,000 reasons to be scared

The estimable Legitimate Tangent highlights today the enduring nonsense of the public sector job ads in The Guardian. They are a precise and disturbing measure of the inexorable growth of officialdom in all its many pointless guises, made all by the more sinister by the impemetrable jargon in which they are inevitably dressed up.

A random glance at the paper reveals armies of Asylum Case Owners, Reputation Officers, Complex and Additional Needs Managers and Anti-Social Behaviour Support Officers .

Mission statements, the more fatuous the better, abound. Stockton is a ‘No Smoking’ Authority, Positive in Disabled People and an Investor in People. As a Strong Community Leader, Milton Keynes operates a Smoke Free Policy. Brent is Positive about Disabled People. Derby ringingly declares that is is Making People’s Needs Our Priority.

It took me five minutes to find these examples.

Between June 1998 and June 2005, an extra 680,000 public-sector jobs were created, taking the total numbers employed by the state or local authorities to 5,846,000. If that is fractionally over 20% of a total working population of 29 million, more alarmingly these 680,000 public-sector jobs represented 35% of all jobs created in Britain in the same period.

By any measure, this marks a significant economic shift from the productive to the non-productive sector. If I get the time, I’d like to find out what the increase in public-sector pay has been.

Still, if it is perfectly obvious that a prime driving force behind this expansion has been Gordo’s need to build a huge client state of Labour voters, there is a further factor at work here worth highlighting: that all organisations, private or public, exist to become bigger and more powerful. That’s what they do. It’s a fundamental internal dynamic.

If a business becomes bigger, it’s because it’s making money. Profit provides an exact measure of its success. But the public sector doesn’t do profit. It does regulation. Ergo, the more you regulate, the more you are successful.

The increases in public-sector employment are not just costing the tax-payer grotesque sums, they are creating more and more people whose prime purpose is to tell us what to do. In other words, to boss us about.

Here is an example, trivial in itself, sinister when taken to its logical conclusion.

Building regulations. These exist to make sure that unscrupulous Rachmann-like types don’t build houses that will fall down or catch fire. Which is fair enough, no? But once you decide that you, the local council, can demand that smoke alarms be installed, that the wiring won’t fry the inhabitants alive and that the roof won’t blow off, it is small but logical step for you to then to start telling people how to decorate their houses.

You think I am joking? I’m not. I wrote a property piece some years ago about a modest terraced house in Basingstoke that the council had bought and was doing up, the intention being not just to restore it to its original Edwardian appearance but to make it energy efficient.

Laudable enough, you’d think, even if inevitably the project was over budget and behind schedule.

However, in the course of this exercise the council decided that from then on no house in the street could have plastic-framed windows fitted in place of wooden ones. Similarly, no house could be given stone cladding.

Their reason was that both were ugly and, as such, fundamentally altered the character of the street.

In fact, I agree with them. I think plastic windows are very nasty and that stone cladding, briefly in vogue in the 60s, is preposterous, turning perfectly respectable houses into strange, mis-proportioned structures. But just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean that others might not find them wholly wonderful. Plus, if plastic-framed windows are widely used it’s also because they are infinitely cheaper than wooden ones.

But much, much, much more to the point, what business is it of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to tell the owner of any private house that they can’t install any kind of window they like? It’s their house and it’s their money. Same with cladding. Same with painting your house tartan come to that or sticking a plastic shark on your roof.

And of course not only do they presume to tell what you can and cannot do with your own property, they charge you for the pleasure. Not just council tax, which you have to pay anyway for them to empty your dustbins half as often as they once routinely did, but a separate fee.

Heart sinks.


The Remittance Man said...

I don't know the average civil service wage either, but I'd be willing to bet it was much higher than the average wage in say an Infantry battalion.

Which leads me to the delightful thought of the reraising of the Civil Service Rifles (Nth London Regiment) and the introduction of lottery based military service for everyone on the bureaucratic payroll.

Of course as an "elite" formation, in my scheme, the many battalions of the CSR would naturally spend a great deal of time in Iraq and Afghanistan, with R&R tours in Sierra Leone.

The Creator said...

This is an excellent idea. But I think you can go further. There was also an Army Cyclist Corps, the ACC, in the First World War.

Should be the perfect means of transport: ecologically sound, lots of exercise and very cheap.

Gordon 'Bottler' Brown would of course be Colonel.

The Creator said...

Sorry, meant to add that these bicycles would provide hardly much less protection against landmines than the Land Rovers Colonel Brown has so generously allowed our troops.