Thursday, March 26, 2009

A couple of weeks off

I'm in Central Asia so may not be blogging much.

Building colleges, keeping minutes and tabling papers

Andrew Foster’s report on the crisis in the LSC’s college re-building programme (and possible solutions) is due before Easter. It may be a good read.

Last week the Guardian quoted the FE minister Sion Simon saying:

"The minutes of LSC council meetings tend not, over the course of the last year, either to have referred to this at all or referred to it in any great detail"

The Guardian article also reported:

Sources close to the [LSC] council confirmed, however, that there was some delay in keeping members informed of the growing problem. Reports tended to be "tabled" at meetings and not made available for reading in advance, one said.

There are a range of opinions on whether minutes should be Hansard-like or something briefer outlining the nature of discussions leading to decisions. There is less debate on the potential for tabled papers to causes problems for governance.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Public sector pay in the news

We live in interesting times – and pay is always interesting. Public sector pay is news-worthy too. Last Thursday’s Times had a couple of articles about pay in public services.

In the first article, the Times reported that public sector pay rose by 3.7% in the year to January 2009 while private sector pay fell by 1.1%.

In the second, the paper surveyed the remuneration packages of university vice-chancellors. One earns more than £500,000 including benefits. Almost two thirds are on salaries of over £200,000. Their average pay in 2007/8 rose by 9% on the previous year.

If the public and private sectors respond differently to falling RPI inflation, the whole issue of public sector pay could become a political minefield in an election year. (And don’t forget the toxic issue of public sector pensions – with triennial valuations next Spring.) On the other hand a public sector pay freeze could raise the temperature of industrial relations.

I think we’ll be seeing some business risks appearing in this area before too long

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

Back to the future? Public services after the next election

The pundits are thinking about the election due in or before next summer – the above advert was commissioned by the Independent for an article about what the 2010 election advertising might look like. Boards and managers should be looking forward too. They need to think through what the aftermath may be for them. Now is the time to start adding some policy risks to risk registers and maps.

It does look like a Conservative government is a real prospect. Since the New Year the opposition has opened up a big lead over the government. While opinion polls are very volatile and a lot can happen, spread betting odds point to a Conservative majority.

What does that mean? Of course, since 1997 Labour has continued with some pre-1997 reforms and innovations. For instance, City Technology Colleges as Academies; PFI as PFI; the NHS “internal market” as choice, competition and contestability in the health sector and beyond. Likewise some Conservative policies like Michael Gove’s on school choice are to some extent pursuing Tony Blair’s own plans.

If the Conservatives are elected, they are likely to indulge in institution re-arranging. However, there has been plenty of merging of quangoes and the demerging of ministries under Labour so we should be used to that. (It’s probably time to invest in the letterhead and nameplate industries.)

Arguably the biggest change and uncertainty would be around spending plans. Public services have had year on year real increases in resources. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ Green Budget (pdf available) total public spending has risen from just over 36% of national income in 1999/2000 to almost 42% in and after 2006/7. (The Labour government maintained the Conservative spending plans for their first two years in office.)

What now with public spending? It’s going to be tough whoever wins the 2010 election. But it would appear that the Conservatives are turning up the rhetoric on this issue.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Not all that glitters is a Golden Peacock: Satyam’s prize for corporate governance

As a film fan I am wary of judging a film by the number of Oscars that it scoops (or not). My scepticism has been confirmed today when I learned that the scandal hit Indian out-sourcing giant Sayam won a Golden Peacock award from the World Council on Corporate Governance.

I think this may devalue Golden Peacocks – not that they had a very high profile before. It’s not the first embarrassed accolade – Enron scooped a prize and praise for its risk management.