Adios CAA

June 2, 2010

Anybody reflecting upon the demise of the like of the Comprehensive Area Agreement (CAA) or some of those quantitative metrics instituted by the Audit Commission would do well to read a paper from the Canadian journal Studies in Political Economy by Donna Baines (Volume 77, Spring 2006).

The paper is one of many attacks I’ve read in the last few years on New Public Management, which despite it now being seriously derided by the academic class who once supported it, is still part of the toolkit of those managers trained in its halcyon days, who tend to be senior managers in 2010!

With the paper’s focus on social services, its more than relevant in the current climate of attacks upon the performance of public employees in the caring professions. I would like to repeat some key words from the end of the conclusion on p.207/8:

“Instead of saving costs, increasing accountability, or enhancing performance, the introduction of NPM and other quantitatively oriented performance management schemes meets ideological goals. They make it clear that public and non-profit services are no longer operating on non-market logics of social caring or meeting human needs. Instead, social services are run on narrow, market-compatible management schemes, even if those schemes contradict the ostensible market goals of efficiency and productivity.”

I hope the new government in its challenge to the target culture and command & control behaviour of the Audit Commission takes heed from Canada, where they are obviously learning lessons.