An Important Year for the Public Sector

Last week I had a look at how the media scene might look in 2017, now I’d like to look at how the New Year will impact on the public sector. After all the dramas of 2016, it would be easy to think that 2017 might be quite dull, but I doubt that very much.

Thursday 4 May will see municipal elections held across the UK. In Scotland it seems likely that the SNP bandwagon will continue to roll and that decades of Labour control will come to an end in many Councils, including flagship authorities such as Glasgow City.

I’m hearing that Labour are having real trouble finding candidates willing to stand (and almost certainly be defeated) in what would until very recently have been regarded as safe seats. There is also much mischievous speculation in the Scottish media about what sort of skeletons the new administrations might find hiding in town hall cupboards!

In England the main interest in likely to be in the first ever direct Mayoral elections in metro areas such as Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool. The idea of Metro Mayors is largely the result of George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse agenda, an idea for which the new Chancellor seems to have considerably less enthusiasm than his predecessor.

It seems likely that Labour candidates such as Andy Burnham in Manchester will be successful, if only because a viable left of centre alternative to Labour has yet to emerge in the North of England.

It will also be very interesting to see what the turnout in these Mayoral elections will be. Turnout in elections for Police & Crime Commissioners has been embarrassingly low, below 10 per cent in some cases. As a result, most PCCs have a poor public profile and lack any real credibility. Metro mayors will not want to follow that path.

Away from elections, 2017 is likely to see more staff unrest in the public sector. Years of pay restraint and a culture of having to do more with fewer resources has already led some public sector workers to take industrial action. The public sector is the one part of the UK workforce which is still heavily unionised, so confrontation with a Tory Government which continues to pursue an austerity agenda seems inevitable.

And let’s not forget the impact which Brexit is bound to have on all areas of the public sector. 2017 promises not to be dull.



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