Headlines: April 8th, 2005

A report out today challenges the view that the public services are full of bureaucrats and shows that the public sector operates with far fewer managers than the private sector. The report from the TUC also dismisses suggestions that job cuts can be made without there being a negative impact on public services.”Bowler hats and bureaucrats – myths about the public sector workforce” questions politicians’ claims that big savings could be made by axing thousands of civil service and other public sector managerial posts and that this would lead to more efficient services. The report says that, in fact, analysis of official statistics shows public sector managers are responsible for more staff on average than those in private business.

The TUC report says the Labour Force Survey reveals the private sector’s three million managers are responsible for 17.5 million members of staff. Almost a fifth of employees in the sector are managers, compared to less than one in ten in the public sector. That, says the report, equates to roughly one manager for every six employees in the private sector while in the public services there are only half a million managers in charge of around 6.8 million workers, making each manager responsible for 14 staff.

The Government’s Gershon Efficiency Review has identified 20 billion pounds in possible cuts that could see 70,000 jobs going from central government departments, but the TUC report estimates that 18 billion pounds of savings could be made in public procurement and through better use of technology, without having to cut any posts. The report is equally critical of the Conservatives’ James Review that has proposed cuts of 33 billion pounds with the loss of 235,000 Civil Service jobs, of which 90,000 would be privatised. This, says the report, would make it impossible for the public sector to continue to manage public expenditure or deliver services efficiently.

The report says it might be assumed that the private sector needs more managers because it has more small workplaces to manage but managers in workplaces with more than 250 employees accounted for nearly a fifth of the workforce compared to less than one in ten in the public sector.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber says public servants have become easy targets for some politicians. They wanted the public, he said, to believe two things that were wrong – first that easy cuts could be made to management and bureaucracy without any effect on services and second that there was an easy distinction between front line staff, who are all wonderful, and backroom staff who are a drag on the system.