Over the last few weeks I've listened to a large variety of people, and read many articles that clearly suggest that there isn't really a major problem at all. The gist of the argument is that the economy is doing very well and therefore people will not take low-paid jobs in the public sector.
But the view that those who, for example, care for the elderly are necessarily low paid, rather misses the point. Nor does the proposition that we've seen this all before, during an equally favourable economy, hold any water.
The key point is that whole sectors of the economy are finding it difficult to recruit. It isn't just the public sector that is having difficulties, it is right across the board and when the private sector takes on public sector duties, it too is feeling the pinch. Significantly, for the first time this is matched by middle and senior managers' departures. Leaders are not just forsaking local government for the plethora of inspectorates and agencies but also the outsourced operations and companies that have taken on former public sector roles. For a manager this can often mean greater cash reward and far less political complexity.
In his column last week Tony Elliston made the point that the public cares little for the structure of local government. He is, of course, right. Yet, that does not mean that they don't care about many of the core services provided. We must act quickly to find better ways of encouraging people to stay within the sector and entice new blood back into it. For those who constantly run down the efforts of people in the public sector, the best quote I can think of is from Joni Mitchell (shows my age) who I believe said: 'Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til its gone.'
And it is the people that are going - key positions at all levels are remaining vacant - so we desperately need to do something about it.
Society of Local Authority Chief Executives