We know that savings have to be made and costs cut in public services, that we have to get more from less,  and productivity has to improve,  because that’s what we are told by Ministers. Strange then that at the Energy Department, as policy  lurches  from one crisis to the next, and experts predict a mismatch between supply and demand, with an acknowledged  shortage of generating capacity and a creaking national grid,  and an  expensive nuclear deal in prospect  that may or may not work,(probably the latter), one has grounds for wondering why so many civil servants who deal with Energy policy  are due bonuses.

The Public Sector is heavily into bonuses but has yet to produce any evidence that they work (ie for example- they incentivise employees to increase productivity). Because-well – there isn’t and they don’t. Bonuses might work on a production line, making widgets, but for more complex team oriented tasks and  services,  there is  scant evidence that they  do,  or at least  they   only work in certain very specific and limited  contexts.  Apart from anything else its extremely difficult to disaggregate an individual’s singular efforts and added value from that of other team players. Or, establish clear cause and effect rather than simply identifying correlations.  The empirical evidence just isn’t there. If evidence tells us anything it is that  non-monetary incentives (e.g., recognition, respect, autonomy, etc.) can be  much more powerful motivators of behaviours in the workplace. I can guarantee, by the way, that the departments ‘productivity’ will not have increased over the last year, and as Professor Michael Barber has reminded us in the past, improving  productivity is a  key task and benchmark  of any and every  government department.

New figures show that Energy secretary Amber Rudd’s department blew a total of £1,299,729 on whats called “Non-consolidated performance related payments”, aka bonuses, in 2014-15. A whopping £284,586 was earmarked for just 108 “Senior Civil Servants”, meaning these departmental mandarins hooked themselves a median average of £9,800, with some payouts going as high as an austerity-busting £14,700. This is despite an average annual salary of £109,490 . The average private sector bonus for UK workers last year was just £1,500…

Are other civil servants in other departments across government getting bonuses?  I think  we know the answer to that one.

Schools Week tells us that The Department for Education (DfE) paid out £1.7 million in bonuses last year – with top civil servants pocketing up to £17,500 for good performance. In total, 25.7 per cent of DfE senior civil servants got a bonus, with a median of £11,000. That compared with 23.4 per cent of non-senior civil servants with a median bonus of £1,900. And at Ofsted a quarter of the watchdog’s senior civil servants received bonuses: the largest was £16,500 and the median was £13,500.Question- did productivity in the DFE and Ofsted go up last year? I think we probably know the answer to that one too

Austere times, indeed, in the public sector.


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