TA costs and relative value for money

My darling wife is a teacher in, what was until July, a (fairly ropey) comprehensive school. Over the course of the school summer holidays that school has ceased to exist and a new Academy opened its doors at the end of last week.

Now that would seem like quick work, but all that has happened really is that the kids have a new uniform (bought for them by the tax payer) and some of the teaching staff have changed as the new place has a cunningly different ORBAT from the old one. There had been concern that the funding for the new buildings would not arrive but the new Principal was happy last week to inform the staff that the money was coming: not so much as they had bid for, but enough hopefully to do a decent job. They will be receiving only £24.8M.

So here's a question:

Is this money, almost 25% larger than the amount clawed back in in-year savings last year by cancelling all training for thirty odd thousand TA soldiers, going to provide anything other than a new school on the site of one which was working already? (Don't forget that this year and for the next two, the new Academy is in the original school buildings anyway.)

or two...:

Could we not have maintained the reserve component in working order, and simply not paid out a for a new thing when we had one that worked already?

All that drama, destruction of morale, inevitable loss of trained manpower, reduction of what is effectively a significant contribution to national combat effectivenes, for a saving of 25% less than the cost of building not one additional , new, school, but re-building one which is clearly fit for purpose for another three years at the least.

Adjutant, where's that flaming mess Webley?
As a qualified accountant and management consultant I've seen a fair few government departments and a couple of local authorities, especially after I went freelance in 2004. I tend to work around finance-related stuff - business processes, finance & procurement IT systems, project and change management, most recently in shared services.

The profligacy in central government often gets me close to tears of rage. The arrogant complacency of the career-generalist civil servant, wafting from job to job every couple of years, leaving just quickly enough to avoid the consequences of woolly thinking, poor decision-making and atrociously badly-researched financial decisions. The big consultancy & outsourcing firms do not work for charity and stitch up these clowns in service level agreements that make the simplest support request run to real money. The civil servants then use them as the shield and whipping boy - 'oh, well - XXXX Solutions have recommended this as best practice'.

However, there is a tsunami coming after October. The waves disappeared from the shoreline this summer with the government freeze on recruiting any more consultants, contractors and interim staff without a note from the head teacher. I have a bunch of simpletons near me blithely continuing to fiddle on a ridiculous proposal for a major outsourcing purchase, not realising that they will be f@*ked off at the high port by HMT when they present their findings. (It's not the right answer to the Office's problems, either, and I've told them so but what do I know?).

Someone somewhere at the top table, might be Francis Maude and his circle, has realised that we don't need a finance and procurement department for every government department and agency in the country. By some Darwinian process all those heads of shared services who assumed they would be 'givers' and not 'takers' will be reduced to a couple of mega-operators and there will have to be blood on the carpet. After all, what do most government departments spend their money on ? Staff costs - fixed but reducible over the medium-term, temporary staff to do the work the full timers are too lazy to do, establishment costs (to be outsourced to FM providers), IT and stationery. No need to replicate this capability 20 times across the entire government network.

Only 'specialist' procurement will remain - the DWP don't need procurement experts to buy JSF after all... The same will happen in local government, the NHS etc.

Storm's coming.... it's my only consolation and what keeps me sane on my current project.

My wife is an unpaid Board member of a voluntary association which just happens to be working in a direction beloved of Govt.....last year they were inveigled into a "partnership" with several govt agencies and quangoes....£135k appeared from central Govt to fund a support post...... There is now a major row brewing as the volunteers realise that the actual output from the support post is ALL geared towards publicising or otherwise furthering the aims of the various agencies and quangoes. Nothing is being done which will actually have impact on the ground.....but lots of research, networking and focus-grouping is going on...and all the meetings take place during working hours to suit the paid quango employees, the volunteers either can't attend or have to take time off.

Bonfire of the Quangoes ? Bring it on, I've a jerrycan of unleaded and some swan vestas at the ready.
I share your frustrations. I work in the public sector in transport planning and the level of wastage is astonishing. Not only that but we have been re-organised every year for the past four years, with another re-org coming when these cuts are announced - and the transport industry is going to take a massive cut. Part of my job has been dealing with traffic survey requests. People don't understand the data they are requesting and constantly ask for to much to "get a better spread of data". If they knew anything about the data they were requesting they would know the adage of the old saying less is more. For three years I have had a line manager who was adamant that as my job description didn't say I was to go on site to check that consultants were doing the job properly, I didn't go. Consequently consultants have gone unchecked and we have had reports with data in it that I know has been made up.

I enjoy the work I do and the projects I work on, but the way my organisation works and the money it wastes makes me want to scream.
Frog Prince - great post, really enjoyed reading it, please, please keep us updated.

Because we have been talking about cuts and cutbacks for so long, and because none of the parties at the general election dared breathe a word about it, most people think in some subliminal way they have already happened.

My only hope is that Cameron et al feel the next election is sufficiently far away to go in really hard.

With any luck there will be more people and projects getting what they deserved since the Iraqi army left Kuwait on the road to Basra.
...Staff costs - fixed but reducible over the medium-term, temporary staff to do the work the full timers are too lazy to do...
Sorry to snip such a sensible post so severly, but just wanted to comment on this bit. At the Public Sector organisation where I was working there was no way of getting rid of the permanent staff or indeed getting additional work out of them.

Therefore it was those of us on Interim, Bank or Contract terms who were chopped (the cheap Agency staff were taken on as permanent staff). When I asked who was going to cover the work I had been doing (far more efficiently than had ever been done before) the answer was "we won't do it or won't do it as well".

The irony there was that most of what I had been covering was reports & returns to Central Government, or as I liked to think of it to The Department of State for Reading Reports & Returns. Call me an old cynic, but could this suggest that actually these R2 were not really necessary if they could be dropped or completed in less detail?
Call me an old cynic, but could this suggest that actually these R2 were not really necessary if they could be dropped or completed in less detail?
Nothing cynical about that.
Hi CP,

I think in the good times senior and middle ranking civil servants got used to having easy access to the 'comfort blanket' of agency / contract staff. If another return from HM Treasury came in, say, and the permanent staff could not or would not adapt to cover the requirement it could always be assigned to a temp, who would find themself employed for a good long run. It was probably easier for the CS SMS to justify the extra budget cost than challenge why New Labour wanted to measure the number of teenagers studing film and drama in Croydon with one testicle.

I first went to my current client eight years ago, I come back for another tranche of work this Spring to find two fellow contractors still there after eight years ! One is sound as a pound, the other is an amiable fool, but it beggars belief that no one thought to assign their work to full time staff in nearly a decade.

I'm sure that this story is mirrored across other parts of government.


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