Let's do a deal

 
 
Donald Trump the new US president with a business background has appointed people to his senior posts on the bases that they are good at "doing deals". Is this a new and worrying tend in the public sector  which we are likely to follow? A worrying tend because doing deals in the commercial world is a rather murky business where ethical and moral considerations are secondary to profit and advantage.
 
Let's do a deal 

"He did not mean what he had said his rhetoric was just a negotiating play to force   "partner organisations" to make a bigger contribution". But do they understand this is how we now do business? 
 
We could be talking about a LA chief executive or the leader of a council. It could be some robust dialog in a local health and social care debate, a discussion between a county council and the district councils within its boundaries or maybe the negotiations to form a new super council as part of the Dev Max initiative. 
 
Doing a deal is the way businesses work. The public sector has increasingly become more business like in how it operates. Those who work in the public sector have become accustomed to managers using the language and practices of business be it "performance management", with its emphasis  on "targets" or a focus on the "bottom line" resulting in business plans being "finance driven" rather than practice led. It's a logical extension of this approach to start talking and thinking about "doing deals". 
 
In Local Government doing deals may not seem like anything new after all most authorities have done out sourcing  deals which were just an extension of the contracting culture that has become well established in the public sector. 
 
What's different about doing a deal? 
 
What's different is the language and the tactics. The diplomatic language is replaced by plain speaking this is not a charm offensive. Deals can be done with anyone as ethical and moral issues are very much secondary to profit and advantage. The real deals are done in the shadows out of sight and ear shot in "private talks". Deals are sealed in the moral and ethical grey areas. What is said in public may be very different to what is said in private.The negotiating tactics include implied threats and "incentives"(bribes). A deal as opposed to an agreement has this murky element, only the deal brokers know what really went on in the negotiation  what "under standings" were reached that don't appear in any documents. It's a pragmatic approach in which former foes and those with little in common can do business. 
 
There have always been politicians and senior managers in local government who liked to do deals and were known to sail close to the wind. In the future will being good at doing deals be a requirement for the job? Is this further evidence that the public sector no longer operates at a higher ethical and moral standard than the private/ commercial sector?
 
Blair McPherson former Local Authority Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 
 
 
 

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4 Comments

FM
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