Hot off the press

June 9, 2014

One of the things I often wonder about, in my post-civil-service, proto-academic career, is why on earth hadn’t I heard any of this stuff before?

In other words, why do more civil servants not know about the academic study of, well, civil servants?

I had an inkling, when I was working on the introduction of CIS, the Construction Industry Scheme, and was invited to an academic conference where I discovered to my amazement that there was a whole field of study devoted to understanding the construction industry, and that I could network with more construction industry stakeholders in that one afternoon than in months of going to HMRC-organised “stakeholder” events.  But as for HMRC understanding that there are people who study how tax, how public administration, how government works? Well, let’s just say my email offering to share my conference paper from last year with them didn’t even merit the courtesy of a response.


Christopher Hood is the guru of academic writing about government, so far as I’m concerned (or, to be more precisely accurate, so far as I’ve read to date) and if you follow the link in his tweet you’ll find a blog entry which is well worth reading and which gives some of the flavour of what to expect in his forthcoming book (and, if anyone would like to send me a review copy…?!)

Look at this extract from the blog entry:

As for cost-cutting, far from falling, the administration or running costs of UK civil departments actually rose by about two-fifths in constant-price terms over the three decades from 1980 to 2010

So for my entire civil service career – which I experienced as a constant erosion of professional standards, working conditions and ancillary resources – running costs were rising as standards were falling.

And where was the money going?

when we look at the pattern more closely, that increase in administration costs turns out to have come from non-payroll items such as consultancy and IT, while paybill – what it cost to hire civil servants – stayed roughly the same in constant-price terms over the period as a whole.

I was looking for a witty or at least a pithy way to end this blog entry, but all that’s coming to mind is “so there!”

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