What has the public sector ever done for us?

I was intrigued by yesterday’s story  that the Tories will save money by capping pay  at the top of the public sector so that no-one earns more than 20 times the lowest paid.   They also say they won’t fill vacancies in public sector back-office functions when they arise.

Apparently bosses at 10 of the companies supporting the Tory plans for NI would take a combined £74m pay cut if the rule were to be applied to them.  Or, as one letter in the Guardian points out, Stuart Rose can have his way on CEO’s pay as long as shelf-stackers at M&S get £750,000.  Sadly, this doesn’t seem likely.

I don’t have a problem with slimming down government.  Some public sector pay packages are excessive.   Of course there will be cuts, and there is waste to be eliminated – although not as much as is being claimed.  I’ve worked with  officials on very high salaries who couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag  and that isn’t acceptable.  My problem is  with the sense that the private sector is  to be protected at all costs, while the  public sector is for  losers who can’t hack it in the real world, and who don’t do anything important anyway so no-one will  miss them when they’re gone.

There’s certainly an argument that government can no longer afford to do everything.   The politicans’ job is to make some principled choices about what work needs to continue and what should stop, so that the important areas that remain can be properly supported.   Announcing what these priorities will be would allow the electorate to make an informed choice about what might happen after an election.  Fudging that  issue pre-election, or pretending that the problem can be solved by screwing down pay in the public sector and allowing services to be run like a giant game of musical chairs  is dishonest.

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2 responses to “What has the public sector ever done for us?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What has the public sector ever done for us? « Sole Trader PR -- Topsy.com

  2. Absolutely right. Those of us who worked in the public sector in the 1980s will remember the attitude that if you are any good you wouldn’t be working here. And that meant anyone who was any good headed for the door and down the road to the City, where you could get twice as much money for two-thirds of the hassle and half the derison. And then the complaints started about the dimishing quality of senior civil servants and a sudden realisation that there weren’t enough people in their mid-30s to cover all the policy desks.

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