Happy New Year folks. I’m sorry there has been so little here over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been too busy doing work to write about any of it. That’s often the way in the run up to Christmas; everyone is in a rush to get things done before the break.
I think business people will be glad to see the back of 2009. Most people I know feel more confident than they did this time last year. There is almost certainly more bad news to come as the we experience the aftershocks of 2008s economic earthquake but in general thre is a sense that the worst is now over. The back end of 2008 and the first three months of this year were, without doubt, the worst period I have known since I started work over two decades ago.
There is always a post-Christmas dip in business activity as people return from their breaks and get back up to speed. Energy levels in corporate offices don’t usually return to their pre-Christmas levels until mid-to-late January. All those projects that were definitely going to kick off during the first week back often don’t actually get going until the end of the month. Last year was different though. 2009’s post-Christmas dip lasted until the middle of April. I was not surprised to learn that the UK economy experienced its worst period of contraction for 51 years during the first quarter of 2009. It damned well felt like it too. Manufacturers put workers on short-time and cleared their stocks, business-to-business services ground to a halt as companies put projects on hold and recruitment outside the public sector almost dried up. Something happened sometime around the end of April when things began to move again. It was like watching a gradual thaw as the energy and decisiveness slowly returned to Britain’s businesses. The recovery still feels fragile but at least there is some activity again.
So, all things considered, I’d rather be here at the cautiously optimistic start of 2010 than in the economic deep-freeze that was this time last year. Hopefully, I will have time to write a bit more in the coming weeks and there is plenty to write about. There are still question marks over the future of the financial system and the extent to which it will be regulated or allowed to return to its old ways. The public sectors of most large western economies will also be shaken up over the next three years or so as countries struggle to bring their deficits down. The British civil service is about to experience its biggest shock since the noontide of Thatcherism. Add to that the usual politicians’ claptrap about the economy, blundering management decisions, crazy workplace behaviour, bonkers employment tribunal claims and the small matter of a general election and you’ve got lots of blogging material for Flip Chart Fairy Tales over the coming year.
Before I go I’d just like to say thanks to the Guardian’s Patrick Butler for these kind words:
Rick at Flip Chart Fairy Tales, the impressive blogger on employment law and the world of work, has interesting points to make about the recent sacking of Jill Baker, Salford’s children’s services director. The case, Rick points out, bears “a remarkable similarity” to the case of Sharon Shoesmith. Rick was one of the first bloggers to wonder about the soundness of the sacking of Shoesmith over a year ago. Back then, he wrote: “[Shoesmith] may decide that she has nothing more to lose by taking her former employer to court. Were she to do so, I would not want to bet against her winning her case.” The Shoesmith case will now drag on until February. But the odds on Rick’s bet have shortenened rapidly.
Unfortunately Patrick wrote this on the 23 December when everyone had knocked off for Christmas, so I didn’t get the spike in blog traffic that might otherwise have come from such an accolade. Still, it’s nice to be quoted. Whatever bloggers might tell you, we all like to get a mention in proper newspapers from time to time.
Happy New Year to you all anyway and I hope this year will be better than the last one for all of us.