Letter to the Chairman of the Sub-Committee
from the Paymaster General
At last Thursday's hearing I promised to write
to you on two issues.
1. CLOSER WORKING
You asked for some further information on the
re-focussed Closer Working Programme, in particular, on the location
of the various joint teams.
On reflection, I note that the Committee have
had full details of the programme in a joint submission from the
two Chairmen dated 8 December 2000. This provided detailed information
on the work and geographical areas covered, staff numbers involved
and evaluation criteria.
I hope this covers the points raised, but please
do not hesitate to come back to me if it does not. I also offered
to provide you with an update in six months time and this will
provide an opportunity to report on progress and any new developmentsincluding
closer working on policy formulation which I know the Committee
is interested in.
2. PEER REVIEW
You also asked about the state of play on the
Inland Revenue's plans for addressing issues raised by the Peer
As you know, the Board of Inland Revenue welcomed
the Peer Review Report. The Report describes the Inland Revenue
as having real strengths in its policy function (dedication and
quality of staff, depth of knowledge on complex subjects and effective
implementation of policy), but there are also areas where they
can do better.
The Board is already working to respond positively
and quickly to the findings of the Peer Review Team. Work is already
underway and forms an integral part of the Revenue Policy improvement
programme, the progress of which will be closely monitored.
Work in the six areas where the Report suggested
further attention includes:
Recruitment of more economists and social researchers.
Different ways of including analysts in policy
development are being tested.
A new economics and analysis training programme
is being developed for staff working in this area.
Research into ways of working with external
centres of excellence is nearing completion.
The need for a more broadly based business tax
model to develop evidence based modelling has been recognised
in discussions between the Treasury and the Revenue. New data
sources including company accounts have been investigated and
progress has been made in acquiring the most detailed database
of company accounting information. This will be linked with the
tax assessment information to form a database for further modelling.
(ii) Involving Stakeholders
The Cabinet Office code of practice has been
adopted, a consultation co-ordinator appointed.
Focus groups have been set up within the Revenue
to identify and spread best practice on consultation.
Revenue Subject Divisionseach formerly
covering one or more tax areahave been reorganised into
a single Revenue Policy group. This is a first step towards a
more strategic approach across the whole of the Inland Revenue's
responsibility for policy advice and formulation.
The Revenue Policy group contains a new Cross
Cutting Policy team, co-ordinating issues, which affect more than
one area of policy work.
Weekly meeting of Revenue Policy directors take
place to consider cross-cutting issues.
"Convenors" have been appointed to
enhance and create links between subject specialists working in
related areas, for example on the productivity, small business
and urban regeneration agendas.
A communication strategy is being developed
to get the best out of the tools we already have such as our Intranet.
(iv) Relationship with the Treasury
The Board of Inland Revenue is committed to
the principles of Modernising Government had has actively encouraged
staff to build good working relations with Treasury colleagues
to facilitate successful policy formulation.
An annual Treasury Open Day has been scheduled
(for this year it will be 30 April). Revenue and Customs staff
will visit the Treasury to discuss specific areas of common interest
and how to facilitate good working relationships.
A number of Revenue staff are currently on secondment
to the Tax Policy, Productivity and Budget teams in the Treasury.
Similarly a number of Treasury staff have been successfully placed
in Revenue jobs.
(v) Growing and supporting staff
A comprehensive new training programme for policy
staff is being developed jointly with Customs and Excise and will
include new skills such as the use of economic and social analysis.
The first pilot courses are already running.
The mentoring scheme is being re-launched to
support those new to policy and to help rapid spread of best practice,
and a review of the induction process is underway.
A review of how we support those on secondment
and get best value from returnees is taking place.
A skills audit is taking place to inform development
and succession planning.
(vi) Consistency of best practice
The Revenue has adopted the Cabinet Office Professional
Policy Making Model which will be supported by new IT based tools
and guidance for policy staff.
Plans are in place to create a Technical Forum
to encourage regular exchanges of news on issues which affect
wide areas of tax laws.
Focus groups have been established to research
current best practice.
12 February 2001
4 See Treasury Committee, 1999-2000, Minutes of Evidence,
HM Customs and Excise and Inland Revenue: Progress Reports,
App. 17. Back