Monday, 15 June 2009

One in Every 217

I don't know about you but I was genuinely surprised to hear that the UK has more qualified accountants than the rest of the European Union put together. 280,000 of them apparently - compared to only 50,000 doctors. Well, I was surprised for a moment anyway, but then it just seemed so obviously right.

Such a pattern of employment is natural in a country which, for a generation, has been dominated by a casino like City of London and where business practices arising from that milieu - risk management, audit, transparency and all the rest of the sorry crew of euphemisms for command and control - have become the common backdrop to all public services and enterprise more generally.

I'm not one of those lefties who thinks we can just wish away the need for management or internal co-ordination of enterprises. I might want to see such activities increasing subject to popular control - by workers and consumers in the firms concerned, and/or, perhaps, pension funds and municipal or central government stakeholders - but I don't imagine that we can avoid them. We need to manage and we need to manage well and this undoubtedly has a financial aspect to it. But we don't need to do it the way we do in this country: management is not accountancy, and public service accountability isn't the setting and tracking of arbitrary targets. Management is a skill, accountancy is a set of techniques. We don't need one qualified accountant for every 216 of the rest of us.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, we've had more accountants than the rest of the EU (and more than Japan) for years, even before Thatcher and the Big Bang.

    We've preferred counting money to making and inventing things for years.