Saturday, 8 October 2011

Increased efficiency, the OCC way

There is lots of nonsense coming from Keith Mitchell with the old chestnut that adult social care has to be cut harder to save the libraries, he blames the "lefties" for this. For this argument to hold water, every single bit of spending that isn't necessary or ring fenced has to have been cut within the council. I would love him to be able to prove this, obviously it isn't actually possible. That's why the choice isn't binary and simplistic as Keith argues. The Conservative part of the government are urging public bodies to resist making front line cuts and to make efficiencies in the back office and on expensive salaries. Numerous quotes from Pickles and the Cameron support this position.

Below is the basic salaries of the head of the civil service in the United Kingdom, Prime minister and the executive team at Oxfordshire county council:

The head of the civil service is in charge of every single public sector employee in the country, I think the figure is 6-7 million depending on whose figures you trust. The prime minister is politically accountable for all those civil servants and the population of the UK which is 61 million. The head of OCC is responsible for 22 thousand employees and 680 thousand members of the public in Oxfordshire. For fairness I will include Keith in this, he gets 31k allowance which to his credit is quite competitive compared to some council leaders I have looked at. One of the arguments when executive salaries are questioned is they are running a company with a big budget, they are the equivilent to a FTSE 250 company and the you pay peanuts you get monkey's line. 

Its another false argument. The FTSE 250 companies are there because they are the biggest 250 companies on the stock exchange outside the FTSE 100. Their executives get paid lots of money because their companies are performing well, if they stop performing and drop out of the 250 they would be held accountable, I.E they would get the sack. Just because the figures involved financially may be similar, it doesn't make them worthy of comparison. Not only are chief execs not accountable for performance in the same way as the private sector, they don't actually take the big decisions, councillors do this and they are held responsible by the electoriate. The officers don't have to give quotes to the media on bed blocking issues, cogges link road, or the school failures in the county. The cabinet councillor responsible for the department has to do that. For these reasons I have used the average chief exec salary that comes from the Office for National Statistics figures, I believe this is a fairer benchmark to measure the salaries against.

I understand there are legal reasons why the pay for executives cannot be cut, but if they were subjected to a 25% pay cut in line with what the front line services are having to take then OCC would save 170k which could be plowed into adult social care, youth centres or dare I say it libraries. This is based just on their basic salary, there is also pension contributions and other perks that I don't have exact figures for. Other councils in the UK are getting rid of senior execs or actually sharing them with other councils. I don't know how well this works but I think people would rather see the money spent better.

One of the other things I am concerned about is the tier further down. By law councils have to release the numbers of staff on over 50k. They make it difficult of course by not giving job titles or the actual salaries. Below is the non-school numbers:

Because we only have the banding's we cannot do exact figures. We can do maximum, minimum or average. What is clear that from the financial year 2009-2010 the numbers on over 50k basic salary actually went up by five. They lost a couple of the 100k people, I would imagine through natural wastage but the numbers went up. On the actual salary spend, despite loosing the two 100k people the salary spend on this group actually increased. Not a massive increase but it still went up. This is in the context of the leader telling us they can only cut libraries or adult social care, the county is broke and all the rest of the stuff he comes out with. A increased headcount and a increase salary spend on the over 50k staff isn't "savage cuts" or efficiencies in the back office, it is quite the opposite.

Another area I had a another look at was the spending data. Between November 2010 and July 2011 OCC has spent £3,064,941.66 on consultants. That's a average of £340,549.07 a month or approximately 4 million a year. Again I'm not stupid enough to say this isn't all legitimate spending but when the leader argues its one thing or another I get angry. 

Even within the library service itself they spend far more on back office that other shire counties. One of my previous posts goes into detail on this:

Looking at all this I see why Keith resorts to childish insults and nonsense binary arguments that have no basis in reality, he cannot argue on facts because he doesn't have any. He has failed to make OCC more efficient or to save the front line as he is instructed to by his own parties position. He has poisoned debate in Oxfordshire to cover for his own failings and I think he should be cut.

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