Tuesday 8 December 2009

The disaster of Gershon

The news that Sir Peter Gershon has been swallowed by the Conservative Party is bad news for public services. It implies that Cameron will follow the Gershon prescription for efficiency – and that means more of the same.

In fact, the 2004 Gershon Review – which included coachloads of representatives from the IT consultants PA Consulting – has been disastrous for public services. It decided (surprise, surprise!) that huge investment in IT was required.

The result has been huge factory back office processing systems, vast waste, less human contact with the general public – who have to interact via call centres which may or may not have the particular issue they are calling about on their software.

It has meant a de-humanising sclerosis for public service systems, and it has locked inefficiencies into concrete processes. The systems thinker John Seddon reckons that public sector call centres are wasting between 40 and 80 per cent of their efforts as a result. See for example some of the discussion on this on www.systemsthinking.co.uk

But it does provide an opportunity for the Lib Dems for a coherent critique of public sector efficiency, if they have the nerve. But Gershon is not anything that should be emulated.

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