Enemies of Enterprise

I am a generally tolerant person. It’s useful in this profession of social work and my broadly tolerant nature has served me well throughout my life. I would like to think I don’t make enemies often.

Apparently though, Cameron has declared war on the ‘Enemies of Enterprise’.  I think as a public servant I might come into his broad sweep of his judgement as an ‘enemy’ although I hardly fall into his vision of a ‘bureaucrat’ – not that you’d believe that if you saw the amount of forms and pieces of paper on my desk  but I digress, apart from having unfortunate ‘Star Trek’ related flashbacks (should I admit to that?!) I can see where he was heading with his speech to the Conservative Party Spring Conference.

Klingon portrait Photo Patries71@flickr

These ‘enemies of enterprise’ are bureaucrats, you know, the ‘back office staff’ that the government seems to eager to get rid of who put red tape in the paths of energetic and well-meaning dynamic small businesses who want to build competitive practice into the public sector.

I’ll let Cameron’s own words explain how he sees these groups of enemies (as quoted in the New Statesman).

So I can announce today that we are taking on the enemies of enterprise.The bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible, particularly for small firms.The town hall officials who take forever with those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business – and the investment and jobs that go with it.The public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain’s small and medium sized companies from a massive potential market.

Incidently, I do recommend Danny Blanchflower’s article in the New Statesman and was particularly scathing of Cameron.

I also though, want to look at some of the words and criticism that Cameron employs in relation to the only sector that I know and that is the adult care sector.

I have as little time for ill-conceived large contracts as anyone. Actually, no, scratch that, I have possibly even less time for large contracts than most because I have seen the quality of care provision take a nosedive as local authority procurement is detached from service delivery. But Cameron needs to look at what he and his government are doing.

The reason the large contracts have been established is because they can deliver with economies of scale, the lowest prices. No, price should not be the only consideration in quality provision but if anything by forcing increasing financial strain on the local authorities, he and his government is making things worse – not better.

Councils are paying less to providers because they can. I was at a small and incredibly well run residential home last week that warmed the cockles of my heart. This was a good quality, small provider. I met the owner of the home and she had two other homes. The staff team were  happy and the residents were delighted. But she told me the local authorities had decided to reduce the payments they were making to her for the same type of placements and she had no choice  but to agree.  She wondered aloud if it was worth continuing in the job as she was ‘taking a loss’ on some residents by providing them with higher support than the local authority was paying for.

These are exactly the types of providers and care homes that will be affected by a further layer of complexity and bureaucracy that the government are introducing through their ‘so-called’ Excellence Ratings for Care Homes that I wrote about last week. How does this marry with Cameron’s vision of the enemies of enterprise circling to swoop and pick off small providers. It is the government and politicians who have proved themselves to tick all the boxes that Cameron has highlighted to favour large providers over small businesses.

I’m not saying that necessarily throwing money at private companies at the answer but by painting ‘evil bureaucrats’ and ‘back office staff’ in the civil service and local government as ‘enemies of enterprise’ fails to understand or appreciate the role that central government policy and funding has had in creating these systems which rely on large companies (which, incidently, fund the Conservative Party).

And just briefly I want to come to the ‘town hall officials who take forever with planning decisions’ because out of work in my own home, I’ve been involved with opposing a planning decision regarding the placement of a restaurant below my flat. The delay related to something called ‘consultation with residents’. Actually, collectively in the block I lived we did successfully oppose the conversation of the shop to a restaurant – you know, maybe that’s ‘big society’ but it did take time to organise people to oppose and if you shorten the length of consultation periods you may well infringe of the rights of individuals to oppose unfavourable planning applications.

I wonder what Cameron actually knows about small business, enterprise or the work that goes on in the civil service and local government? I suspect little because if he did he would see the contradictions in his different policy statements.

Possibly he wants to deliver a message and forgets that what he says contradicts with other decisions and statements the government is making. Perhaps if he is so opposed to ‘enemies of enterprise’ he should also tackle the places of large businesses to wholesale scoop up large sections of the soon-to-be contracted out NHS services at the expense of individual providers and small GP practices who will be forced, again through the potential savings through economies of scale, to use the services of larger companies.

As Blanchflower says in the New Statesman, Cameron forgets about potentially alienating even further public sector workers by his somewhat comical and misinformed rhetoric, but that doesn’t seem to stop him.

As for me, I’m off back to my Klingon spaceship to arm myself in combat against the Enterprise. …

10 thoughts on “Enemies of Enterprise

  1. Pingback: Enemies of Enterprise - Fighting Monsters - Member blogs - Social Work Blog - Carespace from Community Care

  2. Money for old rope
    CQC has increased fees for a vanishing service; now it proposes that homes pay extra for “excellence”. This is money for old rope, and old rope is neither safe nor secure.

    The Care Quality Commission’s proposal for a New Excellence Scheme for Adult Social Care reveals CQC’s confusion about its role and task, its further abdication of responsibility, and its willingness to take money for nothing.

    Excellence is in the eye of the beholder
    The fruitless pursuit of the misunderstood business concept of “excellence” * has diverted us from the core task. The only people who can judge a care home to be excellent are those who use it, because what’s excellent for one may not be excellent for another. Excellent care homes come in all shapes, sizes, and styles, and people’s needs and preferences vary.

    Is “excellent” food the sort you’d eat in a top-class restaurant or is it delicious, home-cooking?
    Is “excellent” care given by expert, uniformed staff or is it given through the love and commitment of people you regard as friends?
    Are “excellent” activities concerts and bridge parties or are they peeling potatoes, reading the horoscope together while enjoying morning coffee, and watching Coronation Street with your friends?

    You pays your money and you takes your choice, and it really is a matter of personal preference – what you are accustomed to and what you have the means to pay for.

    Or is “new excellence” going to be what CQC and the licensed assessors of excellence can most easily measure? It is impossible to measure matters of taste and personal preference with the consistency that provider organisations will demand. Care homes should be different in order to provide a choice. Variety, difference and inconsistency are essential elements of evolution. Standardisation is the enemy of development and progress. Think about it!

    Time and energy (and additional assessment fees) spent attempting to jump through the hoops of CQC’s new “excellence” scheme will be resources diverted from managing a home that only residents and their relatives are qualified to rate as excellent or not.

    The caring, safe, and homely practice of a home (although still a matter of judgement rather than established fact) is a little more straightforward to identify with consistency. It is the regulator’s job to judge whether a home is adequately caring, is safe, and is “homely” in the way its residents want it to be homely. But that judgement can only be made by being there and observing practice. CQC measures care homes by The Essential Standards of Quality and Safety but have now largely abandoned inspection (observing practice) in favour of “reacting to signs that people may be at risk of receiving poor care” which really means “when enough people tell us that a home’s not safe we’ll do a site visit . . . if we’ve got anyone available.”

    *(Peters and Waterman published “In Search of Excellence” in 1982 and its central theme was people, customers and action; very different from the bean counting and box ticking approach of CQC.)

  3. Nothing to add to excellent article.
    It does emphasise though the need to always join the dots. Cost of care contributions go up, many blame the worker who told them. No, its managers in the L/A…no its not really them either, they have not been given enough money by the government to manage without bringing in more money from somewhere.
    Cameron and Clegg seem to have the ability, even more than other politicians and would include Tony Blair in this, to lie, with such such confidence that for a split second… you can wonder if hes telling the truth.
    We live in very strange times.

  4. Thanks for the responses.
    Casdok – yes, exactly but that doesn’t make it less infuriating.
    John – thanks for your feedback. For what it’s worth and this will come and no surprise, I completely agree!
    Mary – again, I agree!

  5. my concern is that this will lead to a McCarthyist like crusade in which anyone can be accused ..NHS supporters, trade unions, students, not just ‘bureacrats’ .its obvious that this govt is desparate after sacking millions of public sector workers and claiming that private enterprise will come to the rescue..who will a sacked social worker work for? management consultant? its stupid…and this coming from a party that takes backhanders from big companies SERCO ATOS…. who are hugely criticised for good reason..what does he want then? Joe Bloggs Medical Assessment Company run from someones bedroom?…i think camerzz has lost the plot…

  6. i just saw this quote from spectator of all places…
    ” The Coalition still has a lot of thinking to do to in this area. I remember a fringe meeting at last year’s Tory party conference when employment minister Chris Grayling was asked by a delegate from a big welfare to work company what provision was in place for parts of the country (Stoke, Hull, Burnley were the examples given) where there are no large employers and very few jobs. How was a company to make money from government contracts providing jobs when there were no jobs? “Well,” said Grayling, “people will just have to set up their own businesses, won’t they?” Friends of enterprise? We shall see. ” presumably the welfare to work company was SERCO….thats one of their many ‘income streams’ so if a back bedroom company wanted to rival SERCO that would be ok…good luck with that..

  7. telling quote here…” How was a company to make money from government contracts providing jobs when there were no jobs ” do you think making money from welfare to work ‘schemes’ is good business? sod it if their ‘clients’ all end up doing dead end jobs or no jobs the company will get paid anyway..

  8. Bob – thanks for your comments. There are a lot of inconsistencies in what the government is saying and we aren’t the fools they think we are.

  9. thats ok…i’m getting a fed up of the rightwing trolls on a lot of posts on subjects like these..i wonder where they come from…..as i say i’m hoping its not going to be a mantra or a witch hunt…” look! theres an enemy of enterprise!! ” (sounds stupid anyway)

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