Can "The Ownership State" abolish public sector management?
Res Publica has produced a series of provocative ideas about real public concerns. This is to be welcomed. But there are serious reservations about the proposals so far.
Philip Blond argues that over the last 10 years public sector productivity has only risen by 3.4%, whereas private sector productivity has risen by 27.9% over the same period. Where these figures come from is not revealed. How productivity is measured is a complex business. What to measure, and what is measureable, raises a host of problems in both the private and public sectors. Toyota is an example given of cutting costs. I am not aware of recent research on Toyota; but my research on other Japanese firms showed cost cutting came from wages that were high relative to local wage rates, but low relative to national rates. Trade unions were not made very welcome either.
There is an attractive demand for "front line leadership". But this sits uneasily with "public sector experts" retained! Workers self management has a long history in Britain, and also in Yugoslavia under a socialist government. What one needs here is real world examples of what decisions front line managers can take; and those only experts could take; and how any conflict between thes two groups could be resolved. One is left with a feeling that a strong local group could, or should win. The debate in the 1990’s around communitarianism in America is instructive here. Specifically, how Catholic priests organised housing and employment, but only for "good" catholics.
The death of full time managers still seems a long way off.
Responses to the above are welcome at: