Posted tagged ‘Oliver Letwin’

Asset stripping

August 8, 2011

And for my next criticism...

I find it difficult to rant about the things I should rant about. Oliver Letwin wants to spread fear in the public sector; I raise my eyebrows. Francis Maude calls it ‘absurd’ that people in the public sector should be paid the same as their equivalents in the public sector and I let out a tired but resigned sigh.

However, when Eric Pickles takes the opportunity of a quiet August Friday morning, when the news should be filled with previewing some form of sporting endeavour and commenting on a piece of toast with Britney Spears’ face on it, to claim that councils should be on an asset sell off I think my blood almost boiled.

What state of ridiculousness does this man live in? Could he not take August off from bashing councils and maybe focus on building some bridges with local government? Could he not have simply focused on the admirable aim of open data hiding behind his headlines?

The stupidity of his statements about councils selling off their assets (apparently shops, pubs and golf courses were his, easy, targets de jour) almost requires no response but here goes anyway:

1)      Selling off assets only releases a one off capital receipt. Thus, it might be possible to use one to fill a budget gap in year 1 but in years 2 and 3 that figure needs to be recouped in full, along with the other cuts needed for that year. In other words it simply delays the inevitable.

2)      If the asset is bringing in revenue then selling it removes that revenue from a council’s income stream and leaves them needing to find even more money to balance the budget in years 2 and 3.

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Oliver Letwin: Fear doesn’t come cheap

August 3, 2011

Am I afraid? Does this face look afraid?

The comments of Oliver Letwin over the weekend have caused quite a stir within the Public Sector. In case you missed it (where have you been?) Mr Letwin said:

“You can’t have room for innovation and the pressure for excellence without having some real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers that things may go wrong if they don’t live up to the aims that society as a whole is demanding of them,”

“If you have diversity of provision and personal choice and power, some providers will be better and some worse. Inevitably, some will not, whether it’s because they can’t attract the patient or the pupil, for example, or because they can’t get results and hence can’t get paid. Some will not survive. It is an inevitable and intended consequence of what we are talking about.”

In response some of our favourite blogs sought to make sense of things. Fighting Monsters took him to task in an article entitled ‘why I despise Oliver Letwin’ which amongst many points said the following:

What kind of society have we become when we feel it is appropriate for a Government ‘Policy Minister’ to drive a disdain and almost bullying approach to a public sector that provides services he will never need?

Meanwhile Flip Chart Fairy Tales got to the bottom of some of Mr Letwin’s more general arguments and looked specifically at the issue of productivity. After agreeing that there has been a fall in productivity alongside an increase in performance he argues about the upcoming savings agenda:

Will more discipline and fear help? Probably not. A bit more discipline wouldn’t go amiss in some areas but it’s not going to save £52bn. If anything, language like this will just further piss off the already pissed off public sector managers, the very people on whom the government is relying to make the changes work.

So what is left to say? Despite all the heat and light about Mr Letwin’s intemperate comments there is a real challenge for Local Government that underpins the Government’s approach.

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