Civil Service Imagination

Oh fuck me

Six thousand specially selected civil servants descend on London today and tomorrow for three days of intense briefings before returning to their posts to become “special agents” of the cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, with permission to “give their bosses a hard time” if they don’t push reform.

Why do I get the feeling that this is going to much more Agent 86 than 007.

A pioneer corps of innovation-minded civil servants has been chosen from officials who “don’t just want to do the same job every day,” in O’Donnell’s words. “They will go away enthused and inspired and become ambassadors for innovation among the half a million other civil servants.”

What the fuck is O’Donnell on? Has he suddenly become the Cabinet Secretary to the government of Narnia?

I’ve been to these kind of public sector gigs before and the only things these functionaries will go away with is a raging hangover – the unlucky one’s might also cop for a touch of food poisoning and, if they’re really unlucky, a dose of the clap from a night out at Kings Cross as well, but if any words are guaranteed not to come into it, they’re ‘enthused’ and ‘inspired’ – not with the price of beer being what it is in Central London.

At the sessions, civil servants will be told “not to carry on as you have been”. In preparation for the event, some were picked as contestants in a version of the television show Dragons’ Den to test their ideas for reorganising offices and saving money — which was filmed and will be shown at the event. Judges included Peter Jones, the entrepreneur and panel member of the BBC programme.

With someone please ask the guy whether he’d put any of his own money behind any of the ideas he gets to hear of the next few days – any takers for ‘no’?

O’Donnell said in an interview: “We have no choice but to innovate. Look at the challenges facing the country – such as ageing, climate change and obesity. People increasingly want the state involved in solving problems but are reluctant to pay more tax. We must find more innovative ways of working to reconcile the two.” He added that recent instability in financial markets and slowdown in economic growth made it even more challenging for the civil service “to be more imaginative”.

So that’s the real motivation here… desperation.

Its a simple enough equation when you come to think of it – less economic growth plus no new taxes equals less growth in public expenditure and more ‘efficiency savings’ especially the kind which entails the efficient use of a P45.

So civil servants need to more ‘imaginative’, or rather find more imaginative ways of justifying their monthly pay cheque and gold-plated pensions in order to avoid having to become imaginative about finding a new career.