From City slicker to public servant – not an easy jump

A local paper reports that the London Borough of Harrow wants to recruit some of the 4,000 Lehman’s employees laid off last week.

I’m not sure how well this would work. I have, perhaps, a rare CV in that I have worked for a local authority and for an investment bank. I had the good fortune to work in local government during the early 1990s when new, more commercial practices were introduced. At the same time, the economic slowdown brought more former private sector managers into local authorities. For a while, the gap between the sectors seemed to be narrowing.

Over the past decade, though, the difference in management practices in the public and private sectors has widened. As Sue Corby points out, new duties on race, disability and gender equality have been imposed on public sector organisations. Combined with freedom of information laws which force councils to hand over pay information, these have led to an increase in equal pay claims.

At the same time, unionisation and industrial action have declined in the private sector and most employers have moved away from the fixed pay structures to introduce broad-banding and performance related salaries. The public sector still retains its salary scales and, for the most part, its annual employer-union pay negotiations.

In short, managers in the public sector have much less room to manoeuvre than their private-sector counterparts. Even in Tory-controlled Harrow council, someone used to an investment bank where, subject to the law and commercial constraints, mangers can pretty much do as they please, would find it hard to adjust. Public sector rules and procedures can be frustrating enough for executives who have worked with them for years. Anyone coming straight from the City would probably be chewing the floor by the end of the first week.

Hat Tip: Blaney’s Blarney.

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