Saturday, December 29, 2007

Non jobs

The Taxpayers' Alliance have a new report out, wittily titled the 'Annual Non Job report 2007'. It really, really isn't very good.

It is an analysis of the Guardian Society's jobs pages, and the total cost to the taxpayer of all of these 'non-jobs', which it estimates at £585 million (which Conservative Home in turn rounds up to £600 million). As the report says, "From positions directing quangos and commissions to advising agencies and local authorities, the jobs on offer are almost always taxpayer-funded – but strikingly different from the frontline roles that make an obvious positive contribution."

Now for a start, many of the adverts are put in by charities, and many of the public sector jobs are frontline posts in areas like youth work and social work. So the 'cost to the taxpayer is £585 million / £600 million' line includes jobs which aren't, erm, taxpayer-funded and the frontline jobs which they claim to support spending money on. They also point out that none of the jobs are in teaching posts, which would be a good point but for the existence of Education Guardian on a Tuesday.

The Taxpayers' Alliance is an independent campaign (it says so on their website), so of course they do take pains to mention that many of these non-jobs are advertised by Tory-run counci-, oh no, they don't. A lengthy and charming quote from the Tory Chairman of the Hertsmere Borough Council Personnel Sub-Committee explains that it's the Labour government's which is to blame, in part because:

“Local councils are expected to fulfill the government's social objectives, like promoting racial or sexual equality, which have very little to do with the core services provided by the council. Again, staff have to be hired to do this, and a council which isn't doing this can expect to be rapped over the knuckles by the Audit Commission.”


But the very weakest bit of all are their examples of these 'non-jobs'. They have picked ten examples. Presumably, these are the ten most outrageous and indefensible examples of taxpayers' money being wasted that they could find out of the 1200 job ads that they looked at. Before reading their list, I assumed that however objectionable their views, they did at least have the basic competence to find ten unarguable 'non-jobs'. But no. Just to highlight a few of their picks:

One of these non-jobs is that of being Chief Executive of Newham Council. It turns out that what they mean by 'non-job' in this case is 'overpaid' (they don't actually make the argument that Newham doesn't need a Chief Executive). It's worth remembering for future reference that a Tory front organisation believes that a salary of £200,000 for a Chief Executive is scandalously high. I happen to agree, but there are a number of interesting implications to this which they might want to ponder a bit further.

For the 'Carbon Reduction Advisor', the worst that they can say is that 'they wonder whether this job is value for money', because they are not sure what it involves - this for one of the ten biggest non-jobs in the public sector.

The Taxpayers' Alliance fume that 'we need real doctors, not spin doctors' in criticising the London NHS Trust for advertising for a couple of Media Managers. Good soundbite, but it doesn't really seem unreasonable that an organisation with a £7 billion budget serving 7 million people should have at least a couple of people whose job it is to respond when journalists ring up, or when a right-wing think tank makes up a shock horror story about the NHS. I don't think there are many examples of private sector organisation of this size which spends nothing on media officers.

The Welfare Rights and Anti-Poverty Team at Sandwell Council have, in the last year, helped people claim £21 million in benefits which they were entitled to but not receiving. The Taxpayers' Alliance suggest sacking these 'bureaucrats' and instead making the benefits system simpler. It is unlikely that Sandwell Council would be able to accomplish their feat on their own, and there is a nasty sting in the tail with this one. One way of making benefits simpler is to make them less complicated to claim by reducing the amount of hoops people have to jump through to claim. Child benefit, paid to all families, costs less to administer than tax credits for this reason. Of course, the fewer the hoops, the more people can claim. Instead what they mean is 'get rid of benefits which particular groups of people are entitled to'.

Lastly, the Community Empowerment Network Programme Manager at Thurrock Council. This should be got rid of, apparently, because 'community empowerment and community involvement programmes should all be responsibilities of the voluntary sector, such as the Scouts and Neighbourhood Watch schemes. When councils need to make cuts, therefore, it should be in those areas outside its remit to deliver decentralized services to taxpayers, not in frontline services.'

If the voluntary sector were to be given responsibility for this (which is David Cameron's plan), they would still need to hire people to do these jobs. If you make the cuts and save the money, then these things won't happen. Instead, there will be a load of talk about how the voluntary sector should do more and more, but no money to make this possible. Net result - less community involvement.

So the devastating conclusions of this report? They can't find even ten examples of 'non-jobs', and their headline claim about the cost to the taxpayer is wrong. I guess 'some jobs advertised in the Guardian have long names, and we don't know what they mean', didn't have quite the same appeal when it came to writing up their findings. An organisation which pays people to come up with this sort of tat is in no position to lecture others about 'non-jobs'.

It's not because this is a shoddy and hypocritical report that it is interesting, though. It's because when it comes to tackling poverty, improving the health service and other public services, tackling climate change, or empowering local communities and the voluntary sector, their sole interest is in a soundbite, a lie and a cheap jibe. They think that people who spend their time working on all of these issues are 'bureaucrats' doing 'non-jobs', and that racial and sexual equality are 'very little to do with core services' and instead are examples of 'the government's social objectives'.


At 3:08 pm , Anonymous tim f said...

Glad you read this guff so the rest of us don't have to.


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