Pete Lunn of the ESRI has an interesting article in today’s Times about public sector reform. Pete is sceptical aout the effectiveness of rigorously enforced targets for public service organisations and performance management for individuals. I think these arguments are worth discussing further. (Certainly, Tony Blair’s attempt to impose performance targets on the NHS didn’t seem to be very effective.)
I would guess, however, that whatever the merits of explicit targets and serious performance monitoring, the govenment will probably do well to get the public sector unions to agree to what Pete notes are the “straightforwardly sensible” reforms such as “developing more online services, sharing resources across public organisations, allowing freer movement of staff and, perhaps especially, basing promotion solely on merit.”
One example of this type of rigidity that prevails in the public sector is that there is little room for well qualified economists to join the civil service in the middle-ranking jobs that would be appropriate for them. More generally, the “generalist” philosophy of the civil service often doesn’t sit well with the employment of staff who want a career as a specialist in a particular technical area.