Public sector clearly way behind the learning curve

Your article on the consequences of the credit crunch for council HR Jobs (‘HR jobs slashed’, Personnel Today, 20 January) was interesting as it served to highlight how the public sector still lags a long way behind in the modern HR world.

As a consequence, departments will almost inevitably be significantly over-staffed, as confirmed by the views of Lord Jones recently when he said of Whitehall officialdom: “Frankly the job could be done with half as many, it could be more productive, more efficient, it could deliver a lot more value for money for the taxpayer.”

It is sad to read Westminster City Council HR director Graham White’s comments that some in HR are only just realising that line managers should be responsible for recruitment, reward and performance.

Having worked in the electricity industry before, during and after privatisation, I can speak from experience of how accountability to someone other than the public paymaster brings a very sharp focus to everything you do, not just in HR but in all areas of the organisation.

It must be understood that HR cannot simply walk away without first equipping managers with the skills to take on this element of what is definitely their responsibility. Many managers have achieved their status because of their skills in the job they do, and this will not automatically mean they can manage staff.

So careful and thorough development programmes are needed before HR can become the “small powerhouse of HR support” that White foresees. Come on public sector, do keep up.

Mike Townson, details supplied

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