Professor Julian Le Grand, Tony Blair's adviser who created the quasi-markets of the NHS, talks of the public sector's "knights and knaves", prescribing competition as an antidote to laziness or absenteeism. Indeed, everyone can cite cases of knavish behaviour – the bloody-minded GP receptionist, a sullen council jobsworth or disobliging clock-watchers shutting down switchboards at 4.55pm, regardless. Bad service is unforgivable in public servants, but it is rarely compared fairly with knavish behaviour in the private sector: what public service would dare tell you to stay in all day to get a washing machine repaired without a fixed appointment? Or deliver goods unannounced so they must be queued for at some distant depot?The problem being, Polly, that if I find a private sector company offering a service that doesn’t suit me, I can go somewhere else.
Not so with the public sector, eh?
For more detailed critique, see Angry Teen's take on it.