Editor’s blog: Public sector pain ahead

I went to the Register Office this morning to record the birth of my latest child. I was on the doorstep at twenty to nine, we were seen at nine precisely and I was on my way by 9.15am, having signed on the dotted line. Not bad – except my daughter was born nearly a month ago, and it’s taken me this long to get a slot. Now it’s a panic to order her passport in time. (By the way, in the age of obsession about ID, I’ve seen little more ridiculous than the identification photo that babies have to have stuck inside their own passports. They all look like anonymous bewildered blobs.) Incidentally, the birth registration, which is done by the local authority, costs 3.50. Getting a passport, which is ‘outsourced’, costs 123 – the most outrageous rip-off ever. Clearly ‘efficiency’ is an expensive business.

Speaking of which, I’ve just interviewed the head of the NHS David Nicholson – the result is in July’s MT, out soon. It’s been boom time in health budgets in recent years, but thanks to the recession, the NHS gravy train is heading for a major derailment in the next few years. When you’ve got a government that is next year planning to spend 4 for every 3 it receives, something is going to have to give. Many in the private sector feel they’ve borne more than their fair share of the pain so far. They’ve endured wage freezes, redundancies and, at a business like British Airways, even been asked to work for nothing. One doesn’t see much evidence of that yet in the pubic sector where, for all the increase in costs, the Office for National Statistics reports that productivity actually fell by 3.2 per cent between 1997 and 2007. There were declines not only in health and education, but also in public order and safety.

It’s inevitable that taxes are going to have to rise steeply to pay for this deficit, and public spending will have to move in the opposite direction – although few politicians of any description have the moral courage to admit this. This is going to leave Joe Public in a seriously lousy mood. Indeed, I predict that the issue of public sector final-salary linked pensions – now a rarity in the private sector – will become a very sore point over the coming years.

In today’s bulletin:

Hester courts controversy with 10m RBS pay deal
What’s mine is yours: Xstrata woos Anglo American
Editor’s blog: Public sector pain ahead
Proof that bosses are nastier than their staff?
MT Expert’s Ten Top Tips: Effective fundraising in the workplace

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    Public sector identity stupidity never ceases to amaze me. A few months ago, I ordered at home a copy of someone else’s birth certificate and had it sent to my address – a favour for a relative with no bank account. Using the birth certificate, I could very easily have got a passport or identity card using their details but my biometric information.