I have a theory. If you want to make a case for outsourcing a public service, the first thing to do is to make the existing in-house service so inefficient that it can barely function. And then blame it on staff-underperformance. Even if you are the minister in charge of running the service.
For me the obvious example is the Land Registry which, 20 years ago, provided the gold-standard in public service. Now, any registration application which I make seems to disappear into a bottomless pit. I can’t remember the last time I logged on to the Land Registry Portal, and found that something had been completed. Now we’re hearing it again with the Passport Service and the DVLA. You can cut staff posts, but the work itself still has to be done.
So what are you going to do? Outsource bits to a low-wage economy? Is that going to improve customer-satisfaction. No – you can’t blame it all on covid.
If you want to make an in-house service so inefficient that it can barely function, there are several ways of doing this. Here they are:
- Impose a top-heavy management structure. The appointees to these golden posts must not have any operational responsibility. It must be pure management.
- Change the ethos of the organisation from one which is customer-focused to something inward-facing, where more time is spent talking about the work instead of actually doing it. Introduce endless reorganisations, where staff spend time re-applying for their own jobs instead of just getting on with it. Invent other distractions such as bonding sessions with flip charts and sticky labels.
- Further demoralise permanent staff by appointing some highly-paid consultants to oversee these endless reorganisations. The main qualification for such consultant-appointments should be that they have some personal connection with the minister in charge of the service.