I wouldn’t dream of claiming that I am an expert on the public services or how they are financed and managed and I’m sure the majority of people in Northampton would also not claim to be experts, but we do know what we think and what we expect our taxes to be spent on.
I have to confess that apart from a 12 years period between 1991 and 2003 when I worked for the Rugby Football Union I have always worked for the public sector, if of course you include working for the National Coal Board, service in the Royal Navy, teaching and the Prison Service so I do have some experience both on the shop floor and of management in the sector.
Those who follow this blog and the statements I have made at the Borough Council will know that I have always been consistent in questioning why as organisations shrink and front line services are cut management either increases or at best remains at the same level.
Why do we have more Admirals than ships in the Royal Navy?
Why are there more managers than beds in the NHS? – a constant cry of complaint by the coalition Government partners when in opposition.
Why are there still so many quangos such as the Skills Funding Agency and National Offender Management Service who it seem have responsibility for allocating and spending billions of pounds of taxpayers money but whose only function, (to use the modern 21st Century phrase), is to ‘bring added value’,whatever that means to the front line services and people working in education, probation and the prison service who are threatened with unemployment.
Wouldn’t it make sense –as promised but apparently forgotten by the Government – to scrap the quangos and invest the billions saved in the front line services on the streets and in the classrooms where it is most needed.
Instead what we are experiencing is a wholesale demonization of those who work in the public sector by politicians both in Westminster and locally designed to elicit public support for the vicious and swingeing cuts they are making to the front line whilst protecting their friends and supporters at the top.
We are even seeing MP’s now looking at ways to get around the rules and so they can claim increased expenses and the increased use of ‘political advisors’ paid for by the public taxpayer at the same time the public are being told there is no money for essential services.
I would ask – how does this affect the people of Northampton,
and people need look no further for a demonstration of public service than that of the fire fighters who last Monday spent all night fighting the fire in the former Angel Hotel, Fat Cafe Club protecting not only property but also in a situation that was dangerous to themselves.
I along with many have the greatest admiration for fire fighters who turn up to incidents, not only fires but road traffic accidents and incidents such as the tragedy last year in the Lava Ignite Nightclub and deal with whatever they are faced with at the scene.
It must be incredibly difficult to experience what they do and still maintain sense of proportion.
Incidentally the Northamptonshire Fire Service is not as many think an independent body like the Police but a department of the County Council and as such are facing cuts in funding.
In a similar way the Police regularly face danger when on duty, particularly in the town centre where the mixture of young people and alcohol almost inevitably results in violence which is becoming increasingly prevalent as the statistics from the court system where more and more people are being sent to prison for violent crimes demonstrates, and of course they then have to be managed by prison officers who are also public servants.
I use the word ‘managed’ with care because with the cuts to staffing levels in prisons it is the management of prisoners to avoid serious incidents that is the priority.
Injuries arising from violence, alcohol and drugs not only put a strain on Accident and Emergency units but as recent reports have shown increase incidents of violence and abuse against nurses and doctors whose sole aim is to help both the victim and perpetrators equally.
So the next time you hear a local politician or MP call for cuts or saying that the public sector is ‘bleeding society dry’ I would ask you think of fire-fighters, police, prison officers, armed service personnel, and nurses and question just what it is that the politicians are up to.
It is easy when living behind security gates and gated communities as many of them do or in leafy suburbs with private medical insurance and secure pension schemes to criticise those who are committed to public service and who demonstrate that commitment every day.
We should be grateful that so many of them continue to show such commitment in the face of increased criticism from those who should be supporting them during what is clearly a time when their services are increasingly in demand.