Is the way that you choose to spend money a personal value? Can you describe a desire for efficiency in financial terms as a value? Surely values are higher things – trust, openness, honesty, even love. Does describing money as a value detract from these more traditional values?
I strongly believe that how I as a public servant spend money – not my money remember, but other people’s money – is affected just as much by values as is my approach to diversity, or engagement with the public. I argue that not only does the moral case for an action (should we do this because it feels right?) have to make sense, the financial case (should we spend other people’s money on this, and how much?) needs to be considered too, so we can consider and merge all areas of evidence.
If we relate this to organisational goals that are common across the public sector such as diversity, then it allows a strong persuasive argument to be developed. There is a strong moral case for diversity – organisations simply need to do the right thing. At the core of this however is the fact that diversity makes good business sense – for society, policing, communities and individuals. Numerous studies have identified cost savings from really understanding diversity, improved performance from valuing people and better perceptions from customers as a result of having a social conscience.
Definition of ‘Values’
There are as many definitions of ‘values’ as there are people who have thought about their own belief system, but one that I have found useful in the past is ‘ a collection of guiding, usually positive principles; what one deems to be correct and desirable in life, especially regarding personal conduct’ . If we stick with the definition of values as guiding principles that directly affect personal conduct, then how you and I spend money – as senior managers in the service of the public is entirely consistent with this definition. As an aside the word value has of course another meaning in English that relates directly to monetary value.
Put simply your choices around financial matters (call it prudence, efficiency, effectiveness or whatever you will) are ultimately moral values based choices. In the current economic climate the decision to invest in one area, or cut in another are just as much about values as pounds, just as much about people as resources, just as much about personal values as economic value.
In answer then to the questions I posed at the top of the page – I believe that not only is spending public money a value, it is a value that needs to be adopted more widely across the public sector, and be seen to be adopted by the public. After all, there are a number of MPs who perhaps now wished that their value set had included something on spending other people’s money wisely.