A senior manager has caused ructions after claiming he is ‘not bothered’ by performance targets and feels they are a ‘waste of time’. Joshua Cooper, 52, had been speaking at a conference on efficiencies in local government when he made the comments.
‘Data really is a drag,’ he claimed. ‘Our workforce hasn’t got the time to record masses of data and I don’t have the time to read it. Most of what we collect just sits untouched on a computer. It is a waste of time’. Mr Cooper then went on to describe how he was ‘mystified’ by the practice and openly questioned the micro-managing of staff who are overworked and underpaid as it is.
Graythorpe Council, who employs Mr Cooper, has made no statement other than to say that it is aware of Mr Cooper’s comments.
Since the 1990s, public services have increasingly been given targets by central government. Achieving these are felt to reflect good practice with compliance in the UK overseen by regulatory bodies Ofsted and the CQC who, in order to complete their remit, request specific data from each local authority. Frontline staff must then gather this information and senior managers, like Mr Cooper, must enforce this.
‘In theory, target setting is an excellent way of ensuring high standards,’ explains Jess Harker of the YCAS Think Tank. ‘However, pulling workers out of households and saturating them with data collection, adding heavily to an already taxing workload and practically ensuring burnout, sick leave and high attrition rates rarely results in a quality service.’
Mr Cooper, then, is not alone in criticising the practice, however it remains unusual for a senior figure to speak so candidly.
‘I’m astonished by these comments,’ says Joel Odudu, chairman of the local authorities group. ‘Yes, there is an administration cost to performance management, but there remains a good evidential basis for this practice. I can assure you that every scrap of data we collect is absolutely essential to ensure we perform at our very best.’
What happens next remains unclear. When contacted by local press, Mr Cooper remained emphatic. ‘I’m not apologising,’ he said. ‘What I said reflects the feelings of the wider workforce.’ Off the record, though, colleagues have suggested he will be attending a course on public relations.
Matt Bee is a social worker and writer. He also co-hosts The Social Work Tutor podcast. Every Monday he brings his unique tales of social work parody to socialworktutor.com.