Unions and budget cuts 'are stifling public sector'
THE improvement of state services is blocked by age-old hierarchies, hardline unions and the Government's stranglehold on budgets and staffing, according to public service managers.
A new survey reveals that managers know how they could improve services but are hampered by factors outside their control.
It also shows they believe these key issues, which were not largely addressed by the Government's plan to transform the sector in the Croke Park deal, are major barriers to change.
The majority said a rigid grading system, which has existed since the 1920s, centralised control of budgets and staff.
A total of 99pc of managers said budget constraints were a barrier to change in the public sector and more than 60pc pointed to the centralisation of finance and human resources.
Half of the public service managers said the unions' unwillingness to cooperate with change was a major barrier, compared with 17pc the last time the survey was conducted in 2003.
And 29pc said the hierarchical nature of the public sector was a major barrier, compared with just 6pc seven years ago.
However, the issues identified by managers as obstacles to change are not central to the Government's plan to 'transform' the public sector.
The underlying principle of the agreement is that public servants must do 'more for less' as the embargo on recruitment remains in place.
The agreement does say promotion should be competitive and based on performance but does not contain a review of the many grades that make up the workforce.
The deal also encourages a more centralised role for certain internal functions, including payroll, to achieve savings.
Director of the National Centre for Partnership and Perfor- mance Lucy Fallon-Byrne said that the survey showed a major increase in the managers who saw these factors as a major barrier to change since 2003.
"We won't get real transformation unless we address these barriers," she said.
"What the survey is saying is that managers in the public service have a very good understanding of management best practice but are frustrated and struggling with the structural barriers to change," said Ms Fallon-Byrne.