Read the strapline attached to any branch of local government or publicly funded service in the UK and you’ll soon realise just how much touchy-feely teamwork is involved in bleeding you of your hard-earned taxes. Here are just a handful of examples:
Working together for a safer
Working together for a better
life with dementia
Working together to beat
the credit crunch
Working together to support
children with asthma
All this lovely collaboration in the UK public sector stems from what was hailed as one of New Labour’s big ideas when it came into power in 1997 (and which has since become one of the most ubiquitous pieces of business and government jargon): “joined-up thinking”.
Also called “partnership working” and “interagency working” (urgh), joined-up thinking is all about taking a “holistic” view of a problem (another delightful buzzword there) as opposed to a “siloed” approach (oops, and another).
An example of “joined-up thinking” might be a project to improve the health of tenants on a particularly deprived inner-city estate.
The council, the Health Board, individual doctors’ surgeries, the local regeneration trust and the social landlord are just some of the organisations who will be “working in partnership together” (such people love tautology) on your behalf to “deliver the necessary outcomes” (for simply getting the job done never sounds impressive enough to these types).
What “working together” means in practice
Of course, if you’ve ever worked for any of these kinds of bodies (as I have) you’ll know exactly what “joined-up thinking” actually entails.
Namely, a load of time-consuming, money-wasting bureaucracy, in which most of the participants’ energies are expended on whinging about each other or, at best, trying to reconcile the competing priorities, political agendas and egos of the different agencies that are supposed to be “working together”.
Indeed, adding a further stultifying layer to the bureaucratic stodge, there will usually be an agency working with them all whose sole remit will be to try to get all sides to be civil to each other, otherwise known as “facilitating joined-up thinking”.
Of course, most people don’t care who the police are working with to reduce crime, or who their doctor has “partnered with” to cut surgery waiting times. They just want to feel a little safer in their neighbourhood and to be able to see a doctor within, ooh, two weeks of feeling ill.
But there’s the rub. When organisations are rewarded by government (financially and politically) for “joined-up thinking”, as opposed to providing a good service, you can see why the “working together” strapline is so popular: it’s aimed at impressing bosses, not us.
Other strapline clichés to avoid: