i Editor's Letter: West Coast shambles has implications for every area of business


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The Independent Online


Our story today about the Department for Transport, and whether cuts to Civil Service staffing led to the shambles surrounding the West Coast line franchise, has implications for every area of business and industry in the UK.

There seems to be a belief in certain political circles that the Civi Service and local government employees are a luxury. Both are full − the theory goes − of indolent pen-pushers, battening on the hard-earned taxes of the populace. (This ignores the fact that civil servants and local government employees are taxpayers too.)

There is a grudging admission that some public-sector employees are necessary − a few doctors and nurses; perhaps some teachers (if they're teaching the right subjects and their pupils are achieving the right grades). Someone to empty the bins might come in useful from time to time, or rubbish will start piling up in the streets.

But clerical staff? Don't they just sit around all day drinking tea and going on year-long maternity leave, before sloping off into the sunset with their final-salary pensions?

You only have to sell your property, put in a planning application, apply for approval for your restaurant or café, or want to repair or install new services such as drains or gas pipes to find out how necessary these employees are, and how difficult life becomes when their numbers are cut.

It was all very well for David Cameron to trumpet his new slogan, Britain Can Deliver, at the Tory conference. But it takes more than bankers and spin doctors to run a country. You also need a solid infrastructure, staffed by experienced personnel, in order to ensure that things run smoothly.

There is no point in becoming so obsessed with reducing the deficit that we end up getting rid of all the people who can help oil the wheels of administration. Otherwise, Britain might deliver − but there'll be nobody home.