Newt on the continuing public sector bonanza

Just to keep the chain going, I pass on via an email from Jeff Dudgeon Newton Emerson’s latest in the Irish News on the profligacy of public sector recruitment in the light of the tsunami that ‘s about to hit them. ( Irish News subs reqd. Three days after publication, I hope Noel Doran won’t object).

“The front pages of the newspapers are filled with warnings of shortfalls, cutbacks and rate rises. Meanwhile, in the job pages, it is non-business as usual. Northern Ireland’s public sector is still blithely creating posts and replacing people whose departure is a painless opportunity to abolish their posts. And what juicy jobs those posts are.

Invest NI is seeking a Director of Regional Development on £57,300 a year plus defined benefit pension (ie the type nobody in the private sector can get any more).” More below the fold .

“Invest NI is seeking a Director of Regional Development on £57,300 a year plus defined benefit pension (ie the type nobody in the private sector can get any more).
The lucky winner “will provide leadership and strategic direction to Invest NI’s 70-strong team in the Regional Offices.” Yes, you read that correctly. Our regional development quango has its own tier of regional development sub-quangos. You might think that Northern Ireland is itself a region and anything below that counts as local. Our local councils would agree, as economic development is one of their functions.

By a remarkable coincidence, Belfast City Council is seeking a Director of Development on up to £97,283 a year. “This role,” declares the advertisement, “is about promoting and delivering the economic development of the city.” Isn’t that Invest NI’s role? Or the role of Invest NI’s Belfast regional office? Perhaps all this duplication is why Invest NI’s 70-strong regional team needs “strategic direction.”

As well as Invest NI and the councils, Northern Ireland has stand-alone local development quangos like ILEX in Derry. By another remarkable coincidence, ILEX is seeking a Non-Executive Director on £9,600 a year for two days a month, which is £103,920 pro rata. The lucky winner will have “a unique opportunity to provide strategic and dynamic leadership.” With so few days in the office, will there even be time for tactical leadership?

Invest NI is also seeking an Investment Manager on £50,796 a year plus defined benefit pension. The lucky winner will “establish and maintain credible relationships with key influencers and decision makers both internationally and in Northern Ireland.” Quite right too. Those fly-by-night call centres won’t subsidise themselves.

Meanwhile, Down District Council is seeking a Community Safety Partnership Manager on up to £29,714 a year. The lucky winner will need a degree in “social policy, community development or equivalent”. How about community policy? Or social development? Or social community policy development (with dance)?

According to the council’s own Community Safety Strategy, every community safety priority it has identified involves tackling crime. So wouldn’t £29,714 of public money be better spent on an extra police officer? Or, in the case of Downpatrick, a water cannon?

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action, which “represents and promotes the voluntary and community sector”, is seeking a Research Coordinator and a Web Developer. This will cost up to £28,636 and £27,276 a year respectively, because in Northern Ireland the “voluntary sector” expects to be paid. Did you know this? From now on, whenever you hear the phrase “voluntary sector”, remind yourself how voluntary it is by shouting “Ker-ching!”

Nothing shouts “Ker-ching” quite as loudly as the Assembly Commission, which serves as Stormont’s own little in-house civil service. It is seeking an Assistant Assembly Clerk Accountant on up to £30,520 a year to “administer the budgetary control process.” Here’s a budgetary control suggestion for the lucky winner: sack yourself.

The Assembly Commission is also seeking a Support Services Manager on up to £38,893 a year “for the management of hospitality/soft facilities”. At Stormont, are there any other kind?

Finally, the Children’s Commissioner is seeking an Assistant PA (ie an assistant to a personal assistant), an Administration Assistant (ie an administrator for an administrator) and a “client facing” Administration Assistant (ie a receptionist). Salaries are low, from £13,130 to £17,099, so let us be fair and take that very lowest figure.

A public employee on £13,130 a year gives £2,147 straight back in tax and national insurance, leaving a net cost to the taxpayer (excluding any tax credits) of £10,983. This is more than twice the tax and national insurance collected from someone on Northern Ireland’s median private sector wage.

If you are in work, picture yourself and another working person you know, perhaps your partner or spouse. The whole sum taken from both your wages, representing the entire direct contribution to the exchequer from all the trials and tribulations of both your working lives, does not even cover the cost of a new receptionist for the children’s commissioner.

Now how do you feel about paying a water charge? ”

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London