Friday, 17 June 2011

An epiphany: in which Simon realises what's wrong with the public sector

Today I sat - and contributed to - a two-hour meeting involving various 'partners' (how the public sector loves that word). The meeting was intended to look at issues of community cohesion, neighbourhood, image and participation in the Bradford District*. Almost the entirety of the meeting was taken up with addressing the first question from approximately a dozen questions. And that question was:

Are there any gaps in the data?

We spent over 90 minutes of expensive senior officer time (the meeting involved the Council Chief Executive, one strategic director, one assistant director plus several senior people from the police, fire service, health authority and the university vice-chancellor) discussing how to obtain that holy grail - a near perfect data set and better data sharing. What was worse however is that we failed to agree any action to be taken, make any resolution or even suggest how we might achieve progress towards that better data set!

Maybe we do need a better dataset - although this I doubt. But what we could really do with is a sense of urgency, an idea that if there's something needs doing we should rather get on with doing it even if we're not entirely sure about the data quality. And, if we're not sure about the precise nature of the problem, set off and find out.

However, I fear that this won't happen - the public sector is irrevocably wedded to the idea that there is a perfectible bureaucracy and that the purpose of these partnership arrangements is to search for systems that enable the achieving of such perfection.

Depressing really.


*Why we insist on calling the CITY of Bradford as "District" defeats me - using City would make a contribution to bettering our image at one stroke


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