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? ”

newton@irishnews.com

  • Driftwood

    A lot of people I know were talking about this piece today and nodding in agreement. This has been Labours’ ultimate folly:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2009/sep/30/public-services-general-election-conservatives

    Has no-one at Stormont the balls to tackle this farce before Westminster does next year. The IMF vulture is hovering.

  • As well

    In keeping with the spirit of cost-saving perhaps Newt could ask his employers at the Irish News about their revenue streams from government advertising and encourage them to refuse to take such adverts in the future to save us all money, in the interim he could find out what % this makes to IN revenues and send a cheque to DFP for the equivalent % from his wages.

  • Only Asking

    This site has been inaccessible all day.

  • Rory Carr

    All this talk of making a water cannon available for deployment in my old home town of Downpatrick has caused my hackles to rise somewhat not least because it is a case of asking the rozzers to run before they have learnt to walk if tales of their incompetence and unwillingness to police that come winging my way from unhappy Downpatrick residents hold any credence.

    Given this sorry state of affairs in policing in the town, and taking into consideration the need for economy in public spending, might it not be better to train the police first by issuing them with a water pistol?

    By the way, a salary of £57,300pa for a Director of Regional Development may seem somewhat excessive in Moldova (although now that the Communist Party have been replaced by a nice Western biased bunch of crooks we can expect that to change as the relevant minister’s ‘niece’ who wins such a position will need twice that much at least to start her new wardrobe) but it is pretty lower middle-of-the range for any comparable executive position anywhere in the UK I would have thought.

  • Big Bopper

    The NICS also have a huge swathe of staff ’employed’ in these sectors. Duplicating bureaucracy so that ‘liason’ agencies have to be formed (and staffed)to make sure everyone is informed. Add Consultants and the whole gravy train becomes shrouded in a fog of waste.

    If the NICS was reduced from 28,000 to 2,000 no-one here would notice except those thousands of well paid wasters that do NOTHING all day (on the few days they are not sick or ‘in meetings’ or ‘working from home-yeah right’.

    Is there some wee guy with a lathe somewhere making something to pay for all this?

  • Teach Séamus

    Big Bobber that is one very broad brush you use to paint a picture of the Civil Service.

    I won’t bother to criticise your comment as it is hopelessly ill informed and over generalised. The Civil Service is NOT one job and the fact that I am sure you can find examples of wasters in the civil service as you would in any organisation does not exactly prove your point.

    I would just like to point out that the vast majority of civil servants are paid just above the minimum wage and the bottom 5 grades AA,AO, EOII, EOI and SO all have pay scales that start under the average wage.

    The majority of sick leave is taken by a small number of people who are off sick long term and any casual sick taking is highly monitored by the managing attendance system which pretty much equates sickness with the disciplinary and inefficiency process.

    There are two many meeting I agree but a certain amount are necessary to get agreement on decisions, to review progress and to satisfy audit conditions.

    Working from Home? Doesn’t exist in most Departments unfortunately. It sounds like a very good way of reducing pollution through wasted journeys and would represent the better use of technology and would allow poorly paid workers, particularly those who work a considerable distance from Belfast to save in many cases up to £200 per month in travel costs.

    And if the NICS were reduced from 28000 to 2000 I wish you well while you wait for your benefit claim to be processed……….

  • LGO

    ““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?”

    No. Local economic development has been devolved to the Councils for years now. Everyone of them has an economic development budget. Because INI spit on anything that generates less than £250k and doesn’t export. Which is most of our businesses. Somebody find out how much INI costs on a “cost per job created basis” and then find out what the Council equivalent is. You’ll find a huge difference in favour of the Councils.

    By the way, the lowest figure was taken for the PA…why not so for the Director post, which is £14k less than the piece suggests? I’m not defending it – just looking for accuracy.

    “Meanwhile, Down District Council is seeking a Community Safety Partnership Manager on up to £29,714 a year…(snip)…Or social community policy development (with dance)?”

    What’s the point, here? We’re latecomers to Community Safety. Have a look at how long they have been in post across the water and how much they cost. Or was it just a dig at the qualifications?

    “So wouldn’t £29,714 of public money be better spent on an extra police officer?”

    No. Read the job description. Do you know what community safety posts are, and why they exist?

    “because in Northern Ireland the “voluntary sector” expects to be paid”

    No it doesn’t. But this is the coordinating body for most of Northern Ireland’s voluntary and community sector. It’s been going since the Thirties. I don’t think much of them, but that’s besides the point. “NICVA operates on an annual budget in the region of £1.6 million, a third of which comes from DSD, a third which is earned income associated with delivery of NICVA services and the remainder is a mix of funding from other sources.”

    For a community organisation of that size, that’s pretty good. Their annual report continues that they will look to diversify from government funding. They’ll cut their cloth accordingly and shrink/grow depending on the funding streams.

    Don’t get me wrong, folks – I’m a big defender of the public sector, but not THAT big a defender. Every one of those INI jobs is a joke. As are most posts up in the Assembly, including the elected ones.

    But let’s try using a sniper instead of a shotgun, and not let groundswell get in the way of accuracy.

    “As well”….you beat me to it.

    Teach Samus is right about the sickness levels too. Our local council had a high sickness rate, and Fat Nolan thought it great sport to wind it up on his show. That is, until you get a bit deeper into the figures, and realise that, for example, one person off with cancer long term, impacts on the majority of staff who perhaps take one day a year.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “and to satisfy audit conditions”

    Ye what? perhaps there are a few of you colleagues you might want to inform of this strange concept..

  • Comrade Stalin

    Teach Seamus:

    The majority of sick leave is taken by a small number of people who are off sick long term

    I have heard this excuse being used by the police as well. This wouldn’t happen in the private sector. Employers aren’t legally obliged to keep anyone who is unlikely to return to work on the books. That includes people with cancer. I’m well aware that this sounds callous, but employers are allowed to fire people who are terminally ill, and in the private sector they do it.

    There is no reason why the public sector should not be run in the same way as the private sector.

    Newton’s article as usual is excellent. One additional point that everyone should note is that the Community Safety Partnerships are the precursors of the DPPs. Both are established and operated by the local councils. The role of the CSP is redundant as this function is now carried out by the DPPs.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “but it is pretty lower middle-of-the range for any comparable executive position anywhere in the UK I would have thought.”

    It’s actually a bit crap salary wise, but one assumes that in the private sector they might actually have to do something.

  • LGO

    “I have heard this excuse being used by the police as well.”

    Excuse, ye say? I think I’d be interested to see just how accurately the private sector monitors its sickness rates. Not very accurately is the answer.

    “There is no reason why the public sector should not be run in the same way as the private sector.”

    Conversely, should there be any reason why the private sector shouldn’t strive to meet the same standards? In supporting what you just have, I can only surmise you’d never employ a woman of child-bearing age. Nor probably anyone under the age of 25 or over the age of forty five. I mean, the first lot are useless and why on EARTH would you give them something like on-the-job-training, and the second lot are just waiting for their pension!

    “The role of the CSP is redundant as this function is now carried out by the DPPs”

    Really Comrade? The role of the DPPs is to monitor the police.

    The role of CSPs is to implement community safety strategy in line with audited needs from local communities. They involve local communities in delivering community safety projects, levering in money from other departments.

    DPPs have no project delivery role. They also don’t involve the same wide range of sectors from business, community and statutory sectors. They also pay their members, whereas CSPs don’t. If you want to get rid of anything – get rid of DPPs. A merry-go-round of muckers, interviewed on a four-yearly basis by PWC, and getting paid for the pleasure of some not-particularly-deep scrutiny.

  • The Impartial Observer

    Speaking as a civil servant, near the bottom of the ladder I wholeheartedly agree with Newtown Emerson! What you also have to remember is that people like the Invest NI post mentioned above will also have a little empire of as many admin staff as they can lick out of the senior management who will usually spend most of the day looking at Facebook and Bebo. The waste in the civil service is staggering. The majority of civil servants are nowhere near as well paid as some of these non jobs in the job sections are but a lot of people base their perceptions of the NICS on that basis.

    I promise you I could selectively cull at least 30% of public sector workers here and you wouldn’t notice the difference! I don’t mean nurses, teachers or benefit clerks but rather the armies of pen pushers above them who spend most of their time chasing statistics or trying to implement half baked “reform” programmes like Workplace 2010 or HR Connect which are purely done for the sake of it!

  • Pigeon Toes

    “The role of CSPs is to implement community safety strategy in line with audited needs from local communities. They involve local communities in delivering community safety projects, levering in money from other departments.”

    Bolloxolgy, in other words…

  • Pigeon Toes

    Er Bolloxology and one word. Just mastered the walking and talking at the same time.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Ah feck it…

  • Chippy

    I cant see former civil servants getting a job anywhere other than the civil service.

    Working in the private sector would be a bit of a wake up call for most.

    I reckon the most challenging thing a typical civvie had to do this week was make it in on time.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Excuse, ye say? I think I’d be interested to see just how accurately the private sector monitors its sickness rates. Not very accurately is the answer.

    Yeah, but what proportion of the private sector pays full sick pay rather than SSP ?

    The private sector employers I have worked for have all had generous sick provisions (ie they pay beyond SSP), and they all monitor this. For obvious reasons, namely because it isn’t profitable to pay people who aren’t working. I am not necessarily defending this in all cases, just pointing out the differences.

    Conversely, should there be any reason why the private sector shouldn’t strive to meet the same standards?

    No, that’s the role of the welfare system. It is not and never has been the role of an employer to be a charity.

    In supporting what you just have, I can only surmise you’d never employ a woman of child-bearing age.

    That wouldn’t be good business, as women compete in most job roles just as well as men do. Why exclude half the workforce from your job ?

    Nor probably anyone under the age of 25 or over the age of forty five. I mean, the first lot are useless and why on EARTH would you give them something like on-the-job-training, and the second lot are just waiting for their pension!

    Welcome to my reality. I need to prove my value to my employer every day, otherwise my future is in the balance. I never know if I’ll still have a job a year from now. I am paid well for taking that risk, but believe me, I would trade being paid well for job security any day of the week.

    “The role of the CSP is redundant as this function is now carried out by the DPPs”

    Really Comrade? The role of the DPPs is to monitor the police.

    The role of CSPs is to implement community safety strategy in line with audited needs from local communities. They involve local communities in delivering community safety projects, levering in money from other departments.

    I accept that I got the stuff about the CSP role wrong, but the stuff you wrote there is a lot of newspeak waffly bollocks.

    I have direct experience of anti-social problems that have been going on for years. The DPP have been closely involved, and indeed have helped get things moving both inside the police and outside. The full time DPP staff are a credit to their roles. Any time a friend from a foreign country comes to visit I try to bring them to a DPP meeting to see it working, because I think it is quite impressive.

    On the other hand, in my four years dealing with these problems, I haven’t heard a peep from the CSP crowd. I haven’t a clue what they do, they never hold public meetings (that I am aware of) and the website, at least on the council near me, is full of broken links and the last annual report published there is for the year 2006-07 – ie the year that ended three years ago.

    Supposedly, CSP should be getting involved on the ground to identify long term solutions to these problems. I’ve written to them several times to try to ask them to get involved, and I get “yes, we’ll get back to you” and then nothing.

    If you want to get rid of anything – get rid of DPPs. A merry-go-round of muckers, interviewed on a four-yearly basis by PWC, and getting paid for the pleasure of some not-particularly-deep scrutiny.

    I am well aware that the DPPs are used by certain people as an incubator for their political careers as well as to help line their pockets. I’m not pleased about that side of it. However, they work. The last DPP meeting I was at, just under a week ago, had about 200 people in attendance, mostly members of the public. Various people stood up and were able to directly question to local police commander and raise criticisms. The commander will now be under pressure to show progress at the next meeting. I think they’re great and I’d like to see them given more powers.

    We need to get rid of the CSP and merge that role into the DPP.

  • Driftwood

    Rory Carr
    As a fellow ex citizen of the county town of Down, though i moved only 5 miles up the road, and wore a green blazer to school- I suspect you wore a Red- The town has declined in all aspects apart from the new hospital. But this is due to many social factors. I suspect the new community safety officer will be a 9-5 ‘job’ and will not factor in what is now commonly referred to as ‘the night-time economy’. On that point I will shortly be on my way to Downpatrick, to an established imbibing emporium called Turleys, which I am sure you will remember fondly.
    On topic, all of us who work in the public sector know the score. The ‘management’ jobs are feather nesters and at the bottom level, like the old Soviet joke, we pretend to work, and they pretend to pay us.

  • LGO

    “I am well aware that the DPPs are used by certain people as an incubator for their political careers as well as to help line their pockets. I’m not pleased about that side of it. However, they work.”

    I assure you – they don’t. And if you have a crappy CSP then do something about it. I work with one that not only shows up the DPP but the local cop force too. Not that that would be difficult. The DPPS are, in the main, a load of self-aggrandising shite, a paper-round of funeral pyre proportions. I have seen nothing of use from either the one in the place I work or the other in place I live. Lucky you to have one that works. Perhaps it is just your presence.

    “but the stuff you wrote there is a lot of newspeak waffly bollocks”

    I thought perhaps the official definition would have been useful to you. I went looking there for the equally waffly DPP one, but the site is being redesigned. More money I daresay being wasted….

  • caddyshack

    I suspect the new community safety officer will ‘be a 9-5 ‘job’ and will not factor in what is now commonly referred to as ‘the night-time economy’

    You suspect wrong, Driftwood. All of Down Council’s community safety team from wardens through to managers are required to work weekends and nights into the wee small hours to deal with anti-social behaviour-i.e long after you are tucked up in your bed after your feed of drink