Most of the front-line people I meet in the public service sector are genuinely eager to provide a good service. Unfortunately (for them) they are often inhibited from doing so by financial restraints.
Senior management in the public sector complain constantly about lack of funding and quite frankly I don't buy it.
Let me give you an example: Cheshire East finances are sufficiently under pressure they can't afford to light the streets at night. Away from major road junctions it's like driving in a WWII black out. Respite homes are closing and care for the mentally ill is all but non-existent in practice.
They can however afford to pay one officer almost £300K in severance pay after three years in office. Each time they reveal one of these ludicrous severance deals they insist there is 'nothing we can do'. They are apparently powerless to control the payout of council officers but perfectly able to cut public services and benefits to the most vulnerable.
They can also afford to lose huge sums of money setting up commercial companies with taxpayers' money that serve residents in no way whatsoever.
Seriously ill patients frequently have to fight to get costly treatment but £300K handed out to one council officer, who may have another job before the ink dries on the cheque, is routinely approved. If CEC is genuinely strapped for cash surely that sort of stupidity should be the first to be cut.
When four Cheshire police officers were suspended on full pay it took over three years before the investigation reached a conclusion. Meanwhile the constabulary complained bitterly about under funding.
Senior management at Macclesfield General Hospital went one better suspending one highly paid individual for twice the length of his active service. Does that indicate the sense of urgency one would expect from an under funded organisation?
No private company could or would tolerate this. Competition simply would not allow it. Any CEO in charge of such a company would be quickly shown the door not, as often happens in the public sector, found another job on the same salary away from public scrutiny.
Why do front-line staff and services face cut backs while senior management receive outrageous pay-offs and benefits? The answer is quite simple: management follow the line of least resistance. It's easier to close a respite home than fire a top executive. Sick and vulnerable people have no water-tight contracts or expensive lawyers fighting their case.
Cheshire East are not alone the practice is spread throughout public services. Katrina Perry, head of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, 'resigned' recently after her Trust's failure to examine the cause of hundreds of unexpected patient deaths.
She has since been given the role of consultant adviser on the same £240K package. Quite who will benefit from that 'advice' remains a mystery.
Does any of that make sense when the NHS constantly complain of under funding? How do you explain that to nurses and sick patients suffering from staff shortages?
Public services get away with such practices because they can. They have been doing it for so long it has become the accepted norm. Were they in the real commercial world competition would wipe them out but they are not.
It's time we saw through the façade. Public services are NOT under funded they are badly managed.
NB: My apologies to all those working on the front-line who are often as frustrated as the long-suffering public.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of wilmslow.co.uk.