At the end of March last year there was a yawning gap in Ministry of Justice accounts of £2bn. The state was owed £600m in unpaid court fees, and had failed to collect a further £1.26bn in confiscation orders. The ministry told the National Audit Office there was "no chance" of recovering £900m of the money. But without a shift in basic public views about public services, it's hard to explain what has happened during recent decades. A new book, Public Service on the Brink, due out in March, can't help but expose what is missing. It sets out to be a vindication of public services, but too often becomes an uncomfortable celebration of victimhood. --David Walker, The Guardian
Brutal vision "Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, is no less impassinned in his criticism of recent governments treatment of public services." "Highlighting privatisation and individualism, he says bluntly, while the market may be effective at delivering a range of chocolate bars to consumers with relative affordability, it cannot extract profit directly from assisting people back to work or paying benefits to carers, pensioners or the disabled." --Hampstead and Highgate Express
The contributors to this book mount a robust defence of the concept and practice of public service at a crucial time for its future. They question the ill-conceived assumptions behind the endless programmes of reform imposed by successive governments, often on the basis of advice from people with no direct experience of working in the public sector.With cuts in public spending by the coalition government and “austerity” programmes being imposed in Britain and abroad, the book could not be more timely in its reminder of the core purpose of public service. After a long period of denigration of the public sector, here is the voice that has not been heard clearly through these decades of reorganisation:"I know what my job is and I want to do it as well as I can. Indeed I would love my work if I could get one day's peace to get on with it. But I am beset at every turn by unintelligible, time wasting and fruitless management initiatives, constant change, ill-judged targets, wrong-headed 'commercial' exemplars and continuous and misguided restructuring. I have to watch as, instead of my 'customers' (actually patients, pupils, taxpayers) getting a better deal from me, the only beneficiaries seem to be those who can lobby for special treatment." The book contains accounts of public service by people of varying backgrounds and ages who work both inside and outside of the public sector. They share an allegiance to the value and purpose of working for the common good and an enthusiasm for getting things right and for the opportunity to recount their experience through this book.