Under the last government, the public sector experienced more than a decade of top-down, target-driven, centralised change.
With massive investments in public services, strides were made on improving infrastructure and service levels in health and education.
But, with money and targets arriving thick and fast, the capacity for change was overwhelmed and efficiency declined.
It was easy to predict a search for productivity was coming - but the financial crisis turned this into a massive shock - the equivalent of putting your car into reverse directly from fourth gear.
In the middle of 2010, the anticipation of cuts in UK public services is creating at atmosphere where any public servant whose role might be considered "not vital" will be thinking about career options. With the economy at a very early stage of a slow recovery, prospects don't look good.
But what is "vital"?
An opinion poll for the Local Government Association looked at where people thought spending should be cut and protected, showing where people preferred deicions to be made about spending in their local area -
Respondents wanted NHS managers, quangos and overseas aid to be cut while doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, police, schools, fire services and care for the elderly by social services should be protected. Those sentiments are unsurprising and calling for reductions in the cost of administration, bureaucracy and management is all too easy.
In the coming months we will see suggestions that any reduction in the number of police officers, nurses, doctors etc would be a disaster. While nobody wants to see front-line services being reduced, in fact, taking a view about what is "vital" is less straightforward than most tabloid papers might suggest.