Monday, 14 June 2010

Feeling the impact of the Tory government? I am.

I'm sure I'm not alone in having felt somewhat sheltered from the "global economic crisis" up until now. I'm single and I don't have a mortgage, so the full extent of my financial responsibilities are rent, gym membership and my mobile contract. Also I work in IT, for a company that provides software for councils, so my job has always felt pretty secure. Of course, that depended on councils maintaining an appetite for buying software to improve their efficiency, something that was only going to become significantly at risk under one circumstance: a Tory government.

Recently, a handful of workmates have left for pastures new, and they haven't been replaced. I saw this happening at my former employers, where there was a disconcerting number of leavers with their roles being left unfilled, until our manager eventually informed us that he was willing for the number of leavers to double before he even thought about getting replacements. I figured the writing was on the wall, so I made my move, and a few weeks later I found out I had been proven right, as the company started asking for voluntary redundancies and getting people to reapply for their jobs (which I personally think is a disgraceful practice). I voiced my concerns to a colleague recently, saying I noticed parallels with my previous employers, and last Friday, I was (unfortunately) again proven right, as an email from the CEO about "streamlining" quickly led to my department being told that three out of our seven Java Developers would be leaving. Welcome to Tory government.

Initially I assumed I would be out the door, as I am the second least-senior person in the team. However, with the software architect being told his position was no longer required, it's now down to two out of six. I'm still not confident, but apparently there is one other person who is possibly more likely to be in the firing line than me, so we'll soon see. The decisions will be made by Friday, meaning four of us will have spent a week needlessly worrying for our jobs, in which time we'll probably get in the mood for seeking work elsewhere anyway. If I go, I'll be moving back to Aberdeen (a move I intended making in about 6 months time anyway), so the onus is on me to start seeking work in Aberdeen now. So if I get kept on, I could end up leaving a few weeks anyway, meaning someone will have been made redundant when they could have just been kept on. But if that's the way things are done, then I can hardly do anything about it.

Anyway, the fact is that this is a direct result of the Tories deciding to put a squeeze on public spending. My company has decided there is no point in making new products if no one is going to buy them (rather than trying to make products that are so good people can't afford not to buy them), so we'll just be concentrating on improvements and support, which obviously requires less people. Perhaps it's indicative of a flaw in our business plan (since it is essentially wholly dependent on public spending), but for me, it's a tangible example of the public spending cuts leading directly to job losses even out-with the public sector (and possibly subsequent increases in benefits payments), and stifling growth in the private sector. Besides, I know from my dealings with councils as a citizen (rather than as a software provider) that there are still a lot of tasks that could be made much easier for residents (and therefore more efficient and ultimately cheaper for councils) if they were automated with some good software. Getting the person who pays council tax on a property is a massive headache for instance, when really it should just be as simple as filling in an online form and clicking "Submit".

I'm digressing. The point is that early signs that perhaps this Tory government wasn't going to be quite so bad after all have, for me at least, been totally destroyed. I'm fortunate in that if the worst happens, I can pretty much just retreat back to my parents' home and live a frugal life until I find another job, but others with mortgages, spouses and children will not be so lucky. The Tories have come in, and within weeks we're back to the same old results: spending cuts and job losses. Bah!