Monday, 4 January 2016

Between a rock and a hard place?

The decision by Cardiff Council to end a ‘market supplement’ paid to some of its child protection social workers is likely to result in some people moving on and others not joining the council.

The reason is simple enough – supply of qualified social workers (not enough), demand for qualified social workers (too much).

On the other hand it is hard not to have some sympathy with councillors who are arguing that they cannot find cuts to meet their austerity budget in any other way.

They do, however, need to be careful to avoid the trap of creating vacancies, which they cannot fill, and then having to rely on expensive agency staff to cover the service. The consequence could easily be the worst of all worlds – losing valued permanent members of staff and having higher costs!

The truth of the matter is that real world economics matters for public services just as much as it does for private businesses. If you cannot recruit people to do a job, you need to think of some incentive to redress the balance, whether that is a market supplement or other enhanced terms and conditions. And you cannot cut people’s wages, when they can get better paid jobs elsewhere, and expect to retain them.  You cannot square circles.

Inevitably making cuts in public spending eventually has a negative impact on the extent and quality of services.  It’s as simple as that.