Mark Conrad 19 August 2010

Council productivity lags far behind private sector, survey claims

Local government staff productivity lags far behind the private sector, indicating the potential for sizable cost savings without the need to axe services, consultants are poised to report.

A forthcoming study by management consultants Knox D’Arcy – leaked to the Conservative Home website and based on daily ‘shadowing’ of senior staff within local government and private sector bodies - suggests the level of ‘active’ staff management by senior council officials is low, averaging just 3%.

As a consequence, the consultants claim that over two-thirds (68%) of the working day of junior staff in local government is ‘lost’, often through poor supervision.

Classic examples of ‘lost’ productivity included time staff spent chatting socially, time spent awaiting instructions from managers and time lost to late arrivals at work.

Councils’ 32% effective utilisation rate contrasts with 44% in the private sphere.

The consultants claim increasing local government productivity to private sector levels could allow a typical county council employing 30,000 people to cut their staff by 8,000 and still achieve similar outcomes.

Extrapolated across the UK, the report infers local government could achieve its current outcomes with almost half a million fewer staff if it increased productivity to private sector levels.

Report author Paul Weekes said: ‘By matching average private sector staff utilisation levels, local government could increase its productivity by roughly a third.

‘This sort of dramatic increase would help significantly offset the cuts that are on the agenda as part of the government’s austerity package.’

Mr Weekes’ report also claims councils and other public bodies ‘lack the skills within their management teams to drive the scale of efficiencies being requested by the Treasury.’ is awaiting responses to the Knox D’Arcy report from local government sources.

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