Friday, November 27, 2009

In a Totally Bad Place

Ever since the September Regional Committee meeting I have been meaning to blog about "Total Place" and never quite getting round to it

In a world of academic discourse and (I should imagine) agreeable lunches after thoughtful seminars, plans are being laid which will consign thousands of UNISON members to the dole queue.

"Total Place" - the Government's plan to slash spending on public services by bringing together various functions (on the model of South West One) was given its coherent expression in a report from something called the Sunningdale Institute.

According to the National School of Government; "The paper, commissioned by the National School of Government and the Public Service Leaders Alliance, is authored by Professors John Benington and Jean Hartley from Warwick Business School. It addresses the question ‘What would it take to create more effective leadership of the whole governmental and public service system?’

Benington and Hartley argue that the current economic crisis provides a significant catalyst for developing more effective approaches to public leadership and organisation development by working in an integrated way across the whole public service system".

This is academic speak for bringing together services to save money by "economies of scale" (i.e. cutting the jobs of public servants).

This work has its origins in, and is being continued by the Institute of Governance and Public Management (IGPM) at Warwick University. The IGPM were claiming the credit for Total Place in their Spring Newsletter report on training they are organising for senior managers in Leicestershire;

"Leicestershire and Rutland are pioneering a highly innovative and integrated approach to “leadership of place”. They have formed a working partnership across the whole public service system (including the county councils, the district councils, the NHS, police, probation service, fire service, and the voluntary sector), and have jointly commissioned Warwick to develop and deliver a tailored Diploma in Public Leadership and Management for 25 of their top managers.

This programme, which starts in June, provides a unique opportunity for this inter-agency team to work together with Warwick over the next 18 months, thinking, discussing, learning, planning and acting together, as a joint leadership team for the whole of Leicestershire and Rutland. The 6 x 3 day
residential modules of the Warwick Diploma will offer this joint team a chance to apply leading edge theory and evidence to the complex problems facing their area, and to develop and test a number of joined up initiatives across the whole county.

Leicestershire is also one of the Government’s 12 pilot areas for the Total Place programme announced with the Budget. This follows one of the recommendations in IGPM’s report on Leadership Across the Whole Public Service System (commissioned by the Sunningdale Institute and National School of Government). It will allow Leicestershire and the other pilots to analyse the flow of all public funding streams into the area, and to harness them to achieve some joint programmes and common outcomes for the area".

The report itself ("Whole Systems Go") is written at the awful interface between academic language and management jargon (with a title that suggests a youthful affection for International Rescue). A lot of what it says makes sense - bringing together the administration of public services to improve those services might be a good idea in some circumstances (though it might not - bigger is not always better and specialisms are sometimes best left alone!).

Interestingly though if you download the document (available as a pdf here) and try to find the phrase "trade unions" you won't. This is not an agenda about engaging with the workforce - I wonder why?

Probably because the context within which this work is being carried out is one of massive spending cuts. The Total Place website acknowledges that it aims to "deliver early savings to validate the work." Work that has to cut spending to be validated is not work that should be done.

Activists need to acquaint ourselves with the Sunningdale Institute and the IGPM for that is where, over seminars and lunches, the deletion of our jobs is being planned. We must also keep an eye on the Total Place pilots.

Interestingly if you search for the words "trade unions" on the Total Place website you get the following message;

"No posts found. Try a different search?"

Total Place is just dressing up plans for massive job cuts - we need to prepare to resist this attack upon public services.

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