Nick Clegg was in Nottingham last week – answering questions about a whole range of topics.
I was interested though in one of his comments made. He was quoted as saying, “I find it frustrating that the things we agree to do with Nottingham and other Cities takes so long to happen”. It was in answer to a question about the three Nottingham Enterprise Zones – announced in part this March. He went on to say, “Shovels in the ground are more important than word on pages”.
This is a real problem. Government announces lot’s of things. Last week it was revealed that only £60m out of the £470m handed to intermediary bodies has reached projects.
This isn’t a blog aimed at Nottingham. But the public sector is very different from the private sector. My little part of the world operates at a (sometimes) frightening pace. We have to be fleet of foot. We have to respond instantly. We live and die by the decisions we make. But make decisions we do. As someone once told me, you’re paid for your opinions not your doubts. Whilst it might be easier to say no than to say yes, you tend not to go very far.
So what are the issues?
Well, Council’s tend to be risk averse. They are answerable to an electorate, so it’s not surprising that taking risks is regarded as a bad thing for keeping your job. In their position I would probably do the same!
They also have processes, which tend to be quite long (thorough some might say). Flat structures they are not. Decisions by committee are always going to be more complex – especially when you mix in a bit of political gun-powder.
But there is another major issue – the lack of resources. Our Council’s have undergone a massive change – with a significant reduction in manpower. They are massively under-resourced. Some might argue that they were over-staffed in the past – that may be so. But, they are now operated on such a shoestring that it impacts on the ability of them to perform basic duties.
We share Clegg’s concerns and frustrations, but there are lot’s of reasons this isn’t working at the moment!