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.
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. …
- Cameron declares war on the “enemies of enterprise” (newstatesman.com)
- David Cameron calls civil servants ‘enemies of enterprise’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Cameron Vows To Fight “Enemies Of Enterprise” (news.sky.com)