SPENDING REVIEW - 12TH JUL 2004
The principle feature of the
spending review is the start of the proper implementation of
Information and Computer Technology to many public services.
Traditional delivery of these services over recent years has been
achieved at considerable administrative cost, with an increase in
associated jobs in the civil service, some of which have actually been
with preparing for computerised storage, access and delivery. Teething
problems and even downright failure in several major government IT
programmes has made the public sceptical that such systems can ever
work and allow better delivery with fewer administrators. However, we
should not forget that before air travel became the safe and cheap form
of travel it is today, it was expensive and very dangerous. IT
disasters are just part of the process of trial and error by which all
things proceed. There have been successes, there will be more, and
disasters have been learned from. To a very real extent, failures have
not been money down the drain.
Although many existing jobs will go in the departments affected, there
is no reason why this should affect overall employment. The money saved
is to be spent on the front-line services that are needed. This will
not mean the instant
retraining of tens of thousands. There is natural wastage and turnover,
and reduction of recruitment to the old positions to take into account.
As the process moves forward, the delivery of services should, in
theory, improve. But if the savings are NOT made in the reduction of
the classic admin 'backroom' positions, then the new front line
positions that are needed will NOT be filled. There will then be no
improvement in delivery. The government has taxed and spent, now is the
time to get the benefits.
The Unions kick up a protest because that is seen by some to be their
job: to make sure none of their members who have given long years of
service are thrown precipitately out of work and suffer as a
consequence. But many of them will be glad of a change, many will be
retiring anyway and (as pointed out earlier) recruitment to the old
positions will cease. It should be perfectly possible to handle all
this without recourse to strike action which can only hurt those in
whose name it is done. Unions can be important, well-run organisations
that look after their members and their industry in the long term, but
in the UK this has only too rarely been the case.