Non jobs – What exactly are they?


Bob Neill - Non job basher in chief

Yesterday, a guest poster described in quite some detail what it was like to be the occupant of what Eric Pickles would describe as a ‘non-job’. It was a moving piece and one which I felt deserved some further research.

Although Mr Pickles and his colleagues have made relatively little effort to explain precisely what a non-job actually is (we do know that they’re not keen on ‘twitter tsars’) there have been rumblings in newspapers and on the internet.

Figures utilised by Bob Neill during a recent attack suggest that of the 2,907,000 people employed by local authorities in Britain 741,702 of them are not in traditional “front- line” jobs such as (according to the Telegraph) “those in education, social services, recreation, libraries, planning, environmental health, culture, heritage or trading standards.”

This is a lot of non-jobs. But maybe not that many; 741,702 staff is 25% of the total number. Out of this 25% we need to find all of the back office functions that are crucial to the running of any organisation, even a council. Within this we’re talking about legal, HR, finance, payroll, policy, research, communications (but only a small team?!) etc; these jobs could be described as the classic back office function.

Customer services, council tax collection and benefit calculation are probably easy to add to this list but I was finding it hard to believe that these jobs made up 25% of any council or that anyone in Government would really be upset by these staff being employed by our local councils.

So what is left? With my mind unable to get a better grip of where the rest of these ‘non-jobs’ came from I took a deep breath and typed ‘local government non job’ into Google.

The taxpayers alliance were (as you would expect) well mentioned but despite a extensive search on their website I couldn’t find the report they published in October 2010 which kick-started the DCLG’s non-job campaign.

However, thankfully (?!?) there is some rivalry in the ‘we hate the public sector’ brigade and the rival ‘tax abuser of the week’ website has published a definitive list of the non-jobs in the public sector.

I urge you all to have a look at this list because to be honest I hadn’t really grasped how many jobs fell into the ‘non job’ category.

Amongst the list I found an array of ‘proper’ jobs which were described as ‘non’. Amongst them (you really should see the full list to get a real understanding of the sanity or otherwise of this) are the following:

Adult’s Strategy & Performance Manager (Someone who is helping to work out how to deliver individual budgets and a new means of providing adult social care: something which is particularly important to even those upset by non-jobs)

Bristol City Council, Social Care Transformation Managers (As above)

CCTV Operator (Something the people really care about: CCTV cameras don’t operate themselves and don’t prevent crime on their own. The person operating them is the one able to call in the police and prevent the crimes etc)

Citizenship Officer (As in one of the people who helps provide the statutory ‘citizenship’ ceremonies and tests that ensure that immigrants are given the opportunity to become citizens. I can see how this might be a non-job but I’m pretty sure it is a statutory duty)

Community Safety Team Manager (Much like CCTV; I’d say that this is something the public really care about)

Democratic Services Officer (These are the people who manage council committees and ensure councillors are able to make their decisions)

Extended Schools Cluster Co-ordinator (Keeping schools open early and longer was a major policy for the last Government but was left to Local Government to implement)

Head of Older People Services (Oh, come on… Surely this can’t be called a non-job)

Information Governance Manager (Making sure councils keep all the information they are entrusted with safe. I can see how this would be misunderstood but if a lot of personal details were lost (think HMRC and the DVD with 20 million people’s info on it) people would be up in arms. These officers help this happen.)

Manager – Preventative and Universal Youth Services (Again, something to tackle crime… Prevention is not a non job surely?)

Young People’s Inclusion Officer (As above)

So what does this tell us?

Firstly, that most of the non-jobs are real jobs that really matter to people and second that the reason these jobs are considered to be ‘non’ is because they are difficult to understand (even for me).

People value the services they receive but it is difficult to get them to value the officers and managers who help to make those services work.

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15 Comments on “Non jobs – What exactly are they?”

  1. DSO Says:

    Oh, I hadn’t realised I had a non-job as a Democratic Services Officer: I was under the misapprehension that we provided an important public service by helping keep decision-making open and transparent. OK, we’re not directly in the front-line helping people in their homes, but all those valuable posts and budgets started with a decision taken by councillors in a public meeting about how to provide those services effectively and efficiently, whether in response to changing legislation or local need or someone coming up with a new way to do things.

    I suppose local government could be sped up considerably if we didn’t bother with those pesky statutory requirements to hold such public meetings or even to let the public have access to the background papers about, say, how their council tax is calculated or even how the council is going to make the necessary savings and still provide services – indeed, why even hold meetings at all? We could also scrap our internal talks with the non-job information governance officer to discuss retention strategies for archived confidential papers which include private details about residents’ finances like council tax benefit repayments or council housing needs: I’m sure people would be OK if that were misfiled, lost or uploaded to our website. Besides, it’s just so much faster just to let decision-making happen as and when, and by whoever feels like taking a decision because they won’t really need advice about a non-existent constitution to say who has which responsibilities delegated to them. I’m sure someone will probably get around to telling the taxpayers about the outcome of decisions at some point.

    We can also stop our work with fellow equality and diversity non-jobbers to make sure that anyone who wants to come to a meeting can do so, in a building which is DDA-compliant, that agendas can be available in Braille or large print, or that anything on our website is entered in a format which can be read easily by screen reader software.

    Without us getting in the way, members will be free to do whatever they want but I guess that’s what the roughly 30% of voters who turn up for local elections must want. We would try to improve that percentage, but getting rid of us also gets rid of our youth engagement work with the non-job young people’s officers promoting democracy in local schools and inviting students to hold debates in our Council Chamber.

    Of course we’d also lose the councillor training programmes, but that’s also unnecessary since would-be councillors are elected to office being fully cognisant of every aspect of government at every level, and of how to apply that knowledge fairly *and lawfully* for the benefit of the whole area and not just their immediate neighbourhood. I’m sure there will be an upsurge in candidates standing for election because we won’t be holding our pre-election candidates’ briefings to scare off would-be councillors by breaking the news to them about the number of hours they will be expected to work for the pittance paid in allowances – after all, they can decide to change that to whatever they want, because no one will be watching or have a way to make representations about the way public money is being spent.

    One of the hardest issues any Council officer faces is trying to stem the flow of misinformation from various sources including, unfortunately, our own Local Government minister. Although we spend every day trying to get as much detail into the public domain as possible so we have informed and engaged residents, we’re regularly pushed back by someone with a soundbite who has done no more research than to copy and paste job titles. We’re not responsible for our job titles: we’re responsible for the work we do, and we take that responsibility seriously. We wouldn’t be in local government otherwise.


    • We managed as a country for years without these jobs and somehow we need them ? joke..must be public sector..

      Well done Gordon for creating an army of public sector junkies who will defend their corner tooth and nail.

      I’m done with working a 40+ hour week in the private sector to support the lavish lifestyle and pension benefits of a bod in the public sector…..time for me to reduce my hours I feel….how will you manage without me ?

  2. Matt Says:

    That ‘tax abuser of the week’ website may haunt my dreams. The green! The upper case! The bile!

    What a shame that it seems the author ran out of steam, just 18 months before the Tories came to power to fight their cause. How we can continue without this website “exposing the pigs with their snouts in the trough”, I’ll never know

  3. Andrew Says:

    Hi,

    “The taxpayers alliance were (as you would expect) well mentioned but despite a extensive search on their website I couldn’t find the report they published in October 2010 which kick-started the DCLG’s non-job campaign.”

    Research > View Archive > Council Spending: Unnecessary Jobs

    http://bit.ly/hQEsRm

    Best,

    Andrew


    • Andrew, apologies for not finding the report and for sending it through.
      I used your search engine a couple of times but you know what those things can be like.
      I shall make sure that next time we tackle this issue we’ll give you due recognition.
      With regards
      WLLG

    • LG Worker Says:

      Just had a quick look at the report. The report claims that many Councils have created diversity jobs to address the implementation of the Equality Act 2010. From my experience this isn’t the case, many of those officers were there before the act and have actually had their jobs taken away due to cuts, as the Act was being implemented.

      Beside that, I don’t see why Councils shouldn’t have diversity officers, they try to ensure that the Council considers all the groups of people it provides services for. It is only right that we ensure are services are open to and accessible by all, not just for some of the population. Admittedly a good Diversity Officer should almost work themselves out of job by embedding into the Council the ability to be considering these issues without them. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a non-job.

  4. Peeks Says:

    So basicaly a “non-job” is something that a cretin can’t understand the function of from its title.

  5. Pete Says:

    Local government could do themselves a favour by using clearer language in job titles (and job descriptions); it would stop a lot of this non-job bleating straight away.

    Don’t think for a minute that anyone makes these judgements on what the purpose of the job actually is.


  6. I did some digging into these figures at the time of the story and the answers I received may be of interest.

    I started by asking DCLG what their definition of a “non-job”. The press office didn’t provide one, instead they said that: “Ministers regularly give examples of what they regard as non jobs.”

    They did answer my question about where the line between front- and back-office falls with the following quote from a 2007 paper – http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/557726.pdf

    “Frontline staff were defined as workers who were either directly responsible for, or closely supporting, the delivery of council services to the public. This included staff who were quite senior (e.g. managers within council services) or highly qualified (e.g. social workers), but most respondents were below managerial level. Only staff employed by the local authority were included in the sample i.e. the research excluded contracted-out staff. Respondents were further divided into two categories: those who worked mainly in council offices and those who worked mainly in the community.”

    The DCLG press officer also told me that the figures on which Bob Neill commented were from the Local Government Association’s 2010 analysis of job roles. http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/15142112

    The source for the 741,702 ‘non-jobs’ figure appears to have come from the summary table on p2 where the LGA quotes the same figure in the “other staff” row of the table. The other rows refer to “education, social services, recreation, libraries, planning, environmental health, culture, heritage or trading standards” which tally completely with the Telegraph article’s definition of frontline.

    However, further into the LGA’s analysis, on p7, there is an explanation of what “other staff” means and they include ‘jobs’ such as school assistants, cleaners, housing officers, caretakers and nursery nurses, as well as ‘non-job’ admin assistants, secretaries and HR staff.

    A proper read of the LGA’s paper reveals that the 741,702 “other staff” are simply the local government employees who are not counted up by either the School Census, the NHS Information Centre or CIPFA. So more a housekeeping issue than any judgement on the roles.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that I asked DCLG if they had provided the Telegraph with the figure or the definition for frontline jobs. They said: “DCLG press office did not brief the story. Nor did we provide a definition of frontline jobs.”

    I then went back and asked if DCLG ministers or special advisers had provided the figure or the definition. They never got back to me.


  7. I looked into these figures at the time of the story and the answers I received may be of interest.

    I started by asking DCLG what their definition of a “non-job”. The press office didn’t provide one, instead they said that: “Ministers regularly give examples of what they regard as non jobs.”

    They did answer my question about where the line between front- and back-office falls with the following quote from a 2007 paper – http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/localgovernment/pdf/557726.pdf

    “Frontline staff were defined as workers who were either directly responsible for, or closely supporting, the delivery of council services to the public. This included staff who were quite senior (e.g. managers within council services) or highly qualified (e.g. social workers), but most respondents were below managerial level. Only staff employed by the local authority were included in the sample i.e. the research excluded contracted-out staff. Respondents were further divided into two categories: those who worked mainly in council offices and those who worked mainly in the community.”

    The DCLG press officer also told me that the figures on which Bob Neill commented were from the Local Government Association’s 2010 analysis of job roles. http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/15142112

    The source for the 741,702 ‘non-jobs’ figure appears to have come from the summary table on p2 where the LGA quotes the same figure in the “other staff” row of the table. The other rows refer to “education, social services, recreation, libraries, planning, environmental health, culture, heritage or trading standards” which tally completely with the Telegraph article’s definition of frontline.

    However, further into the LGA’s analysis, on p7, there is an explanation of what “other staff” means and they include ‘jobs’ such as school assistants, cleaners, housing officers, caretakers and nursery nurses, as well as ‘non-job’ admin assistants, secretaries and HR staff.

    A proper read of the LGA’s paper reveals that the 741,702 “other staff” are simply the local government employees who are not counted up by either the School Census, the NHS Information Centre or CIPFA. So more a housekeeping issue than any judgement on the roles.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that I asked DCLG if they had provided the Telegraph with the figure or the definition for frontline jobs. They said: “DCLG press office did not brief the story. Nor did we provide a definition of frontline jobs.”

    I then went back and asked if DCLG ministers or special advisers had provided the figure or the definition. They never got back to me.


    • Ruth, that is really helpful… Thank you very much indeed!

      PS. Sorry about the delay in this getting up… It had been stuck in a spam folder by the good people of wordpress…

  8. J.G.Harston Says:

    Yay! Get rid of Democratic Services Officers. After all, elections and democracy are a leaden weight on local administration.


  9. [...] on mythical ‘non-jobs’ Share [...]


  10. [...] spoken about non-jobs from time to time on this blog and every now and again we check in with the wonderful taxpayers alliance [...]

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