Public sector inertia

There are many examples of waste that go largely unnoticed. These are often examples that do not involve large sums of money. However as our parents used to tell us, if you take care of the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.

One such example was spotted by the Hull Daily Mail. A headteacher of a Hull primary school was breathalysed on his way to work. He was found to be just above the legal limit, was fined and banned from driving. The school then decided to suspend him on full pay. I'm not going through the rights and wrongs of this. Many will agree with the school that he may have brought it into disrepute, while others will say it overreacted. This is not my point.

Instead of convening a governors' meeting and making a quick decision, the governors sat on the problem, and six months later - having still not made a decision - the headteacher resigned. This was not a complicated case. There are precedents, and the school can seek the advice of the education authority.

As this was a primary school, the headteacher would have been on a salary of between £50-60K a year. Because of this dithering, the governors have paid-out somewhere between £25-30K  they did not need to.  At a time when every penny counts, this is something that should not be happening.

There are too many staff in the public sector who are suspended, sit at home for months - sometimes years - whilst their case is dealt with at a speed snails would be embarrassed of. In January it was revealed Leicester City Council and Leicestershire County Council had suspended 35 employees between them. One had been suspended for 45 months! In Manchester, one school worker was suspended for over five years, costing taxpayers over £100K in salary and employment costs, not to mention the huge legal bills. Incidents like this may go some way to explain the high levels of spending on supply teachers we found recently.

The journalist who wrote the story in the Hull Daily Mail said to me if she had been prosecuted for a misdemeanor, her editor would have made a decision on her future in the time it took her to walk from the court to the office. If private sector businesses can make these decisions quickly - with due regard to employment law - why can't the public sector? If doesn't make a difference if someone is suspended from six months or five years. It is still our money being wasted.

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