Some local authorities spend almost a fifth of their care budget on the complex assessments and reviews required by law to ensure that elderly and disabled people receive the right support.
But other councils manage to do the same task for just over a third of the price, analysts at the Audit Commission said.
The Commission calculates that the taxpayer could save as much as £312 million a year if all councils were equally as “efficient” – enough to pay for home care for almost 20,000 older people.
But while some local authorities spend an average of more than £2,200 on each assessment, others manage it for £830 while still apparently maintaining standards.
Those councils which spend less tend to use less specialist staff to carry out basic assessments leaving highly paid social workers and experts to focus on the more complex work, the report found.
In some councils people carrying out the assessments cost the taxpayer an average of £96,000 each per year in pay and other benefits, almost twice the rate in others.
The first lesson of economics is that incentives matter. In a bureaucracy (as the Blessed C. Northcote pointed out) then incentive is to increase the number of staff reporting to you and to increase the pay of those more numerous staff reporting to you.
Bureaucracy is thus an undesirable, but alas sometimes wholly necessary, method of managing anything. The trick is to reduce the number of things run by clipboard wielding bureaucracy to the absolute minimum possible. And even then to introduce/include other forms of incentive if one possibly can. Like, for example, contracting out to market based providers if at all possible. Not necessarily do that you understand, but attempt to find some solution that overcomes the inherent problems of the incentives of bureaucracy at least.
One of the reasons we have shit and expensive public services is that we don\’t actually do this: as the Nordics do. Much of Scandinavia\’s fire and ambulance service is run by Falck AS, formerly a subsidiary of G4S. Purely on efficiency grounds: but can you imagine that ever actually happening here?