Civil Service World

Helping civil service leaders understand their working environment

For more than a decade, Civil Service World has worked to keep civil servants informed about what’s happening across government: the people, agendas, policies and reforms that – for good or ill – affect the working life of civil service leaders.

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Civil Service World News

Hundreds of Environment Agency staff deployed to tackle floods

3 hours 51 minutes ago
News

Agency urges people to ‘remain vigilant, check their flood risk and plan to stay safe’ amid warnings of more rain to come

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People carrying supplies following floods in Bentley of Doncaster Photo: PA

The Environment Agency has deployed staff across South Yorkshire and other parts of England after flooding that has led to hundreds of people begin forced to leave their homes.

This morning, there are 34 flood warnings issued by the Environment Agency, which means that flooding is expected and residents and businesses need to take immediate action, and a further 73 flood alerts, meaning flooding is possible and people should be prepared.

However, five severe flood warnings in South Yorkshire, which indicate there is a threat to life, have been downgraded since yesterday, according to the flood warnings website.

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About 200 Army personnel are in South Yorkshire supporting the flood effort, with a further 200 on standby, and the government has activated the emergency Bellwin scheme to reimburse local authorities for costs in responding to the floods in Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

The Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government will also provide a Community Recovery Grant to local councils – equivalent to £500 per eligible household - to help communities with their immediate recovery.

According to the EA, approximately 13,500 properties have been protected by flood defences, including nearly 5,000 properties in South Yorkshire alone, since the flooding began last Thursday. Flood storage areas are also being operated to protect 7,000 homes in parts of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire.

Over 200 staff from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-sponsored public body are on the ground in South Yorkshire supporting local communities affected by the recent devastating flooding, and it has warned that the flood risk remains high for the coming days with rainfall expected on Thursday and Friday.

The Environment Agency said that it is “better prepared than ever” to protect properties and homes in the flood-affected areas, with an additional 40km of temporary barriers, 308,880 sandbags and 72 pumps acquired since the floods of winter 2015/16.

“We continue to work around the clock in our incident rooms and on the ground to reduce flood risk and keep communities safe,” it said in a statement  on Tuesday afternoon. “EA field teams are continuing to work 24/7 to clear debris from rivers, operate flood storage areas and pump away flood water. In Fishlake, ultra-high volume pumps have been deployed to pump away flood water as soon as water levels allow.

Doug Wilson, flood duty manager at the Environment Agency, added that more heavy rain could bring further and severe surface water and river flooding to parts of South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire on Thursday and Friday, and that areas of South Yorkshire will remain affected by ongoing high river levels today through to Saturday.

“The Environment Agency has teams working around the clock on the ground erecting temporary barriers and delivering sandbags to areas expecting further rainfall,” he said.

“Our incident rooms remain open 24 hours a day and we are continuing to work closely with local authorities and partners. People should remain vigilant, check their flood risk and plan to stay safe. We advise people to stay away from swollen rivers and not to walk or drive through flood water as just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.”

Tags Energy & Environment Operational Delivery Categories Communities, housing and planning Environment About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Richard Johnstone

Access all areas: what happens in pre-election talks with the opposition

3 hours 52 minutes ago
Opinion

Pre-election talks with shadow ministers pose challenges for permanent secretaries – but are also an opportunity to meet ambitious manifesto commitments with an early dose of realism, says IfG's Catherine Haddon

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Access pass: Labour was first to hold meetings with the civil service ahead of the upcoming election. Photo: PA

In the last few weeks Labour shadows began meeting with permanent secretaries to discuss their plans for government. The prime minister has also given permission for the SNP and Liberal Democrats to hold them as well – the first time this has happened. The parties will only manage a few meetings, given the pressures of a hectic campaign. But access talks represent a tricky challenge for the civil service. How do you make sure you are ready to deliver from the off, no matter what government is returned after the election?

Access talks are a quite unusual, and little-known, feature of UK general elections. Normally there are few instances when opposition parties get that kind of access to the civil service. But they are also extremely sensible and very necessary. Their origins speak to this. They began because Alec Douglas Home, prime minister at the 1964 election, thought Labour should talk to the civil service about plans for a new Department for Economic Affairs. They have since become a mainstay of elections, regulated by rules about what can and can’t be talked about.

The talks usually happen away from departments – civil servants should not let them interfere with continuing to serve the government. What gets discussed can vary hugely. Some shadows will bring detailed policy plans and even draft legislation, as the Conservatives did for the academies programme in 2010. Others might be more of a getting-to-know-you exercise.

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The civil service are restricted in what they say. They can’t share insights into current government plans, nor give policy advice. Permanent secretaries are supposed to be in “listening mode” And as they continue to serve ministers, they also have to be careful about how the talks are perceived. In 1997, anticipating a Labour victory, one permanent secretary alienated his existing minister over the amount of work the department enthusiastically did to prepare.

Despite the restrictions, permanent secretaries can get a lot from the talks. They are a chance to see what kind of person the shadow is, get a sense of the objectives behind policies and talk about which policies matter most. These are crucial for thinking about how staff, money and priorities would have to be shifted in the department if there is a new government.

“In 1997, anticipating a Labour victory, one permanent secretary alienated his existing minister over the amount of work the department enthusiastically

And shadows benefit also – although speaking to previous participants suggests the civil service are generally more positive about the talks than politicians. The talks help them start to see the civil service differently, get to know top officials and to focus their minds on what they want to do in office. They can also be a chance to get a sense of what else the department is up to, beyond what the shadows have planned. But they only help so far – nothing compares to the enormity of talking on a ministerial post for the first time.

The challenge for the civil service this time is two-fold. One is the sheer uncertainty of the result and the range of possible outcomes – coalitions may be off most parties’ agendas, but confidence and supply relationships could be very likely. The other challenge is the scale of what the main parties seem to be proposing. Large infrastructure projects, huge reforms, big public spending pledges, and then Brexit. Some of the proposals will take years. But the pressure will be on permanent secretaries to show that their departments are ready to deliver, while making sure they have learnt the lessons of major projects – such as Universal Credit and NHS IT reform – and can deliver an early dose of realism. Access talks are their chance to start having those conversations.

Author Display Name Catherine Haddon About the author

Catherine Haddon is a senior fellow at the Institute for Government. She tweets as @cath_haddon

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Richard Johnstone

Defra looks to get a grip on pig performance data

5 hours 14 minutes ago
News

Department seeks supplier to help it bring together information

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Photo: Jean Beaufort/Public domain

The government is seeking to get a better handle on data on the performance of the UK’s pigs.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has published a contract notice seeking to hear from suppliers that could potentially help it with the publication of “quarterly pig performance data for Great Britain”.

AHDB, an arm’s length body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, currently publishes a range of information related to the UK’s pig herds. This includes information on productivity, weaning, birth rates, and infant mortality.

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The organisation wishes to explore how the detail or scope of this data could be improved and, ahead of the possible launch of a formal procurement process, is seeking input from market players.

“The objective of [this] RFI request for information is to better understand the appetite and supply landscape for pig performance data, particularly in regards to both the capacity and capability of the wider marketplace, and the scope/feasibility of the drafted service requirement."

AHDB added that is “looking for data sets from already existing pig-management systems or software and are not looking to develop bespoke recording systems”. 

It said that it wishes to separately address information sets related to “indoor and outdoor sows”.

“We are also seeking pig performance data for rearing and finishing systems,” the organisation added. "AHDB are investigating which suppliers are willing and capable of providing pig performance data.”

Interested parties have until 19 December to respond to the RFI.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Categories Agriculture and rural affairs Government and politics About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of CSW's sister site PublicTechnology, where this article first appeared.

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‘Timing your intervention is part of the art’ – NAO head Gareth Davies on the role of auditors in ensuring value for money in government

1 day 2 hours ago
News

The head of the National Audit Office has set out his priorities for the role in an exclusive interview with The Civil Service World Podcast

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Brexit is changing the way government works and the National Audit Office is having to respond to ensure it keeps up, the auditor general Gareth Davies has told Civil Service World.

In an interview with The Civil Service World Podcast, Davies, who took up post in June, set out his plans for the organisation, which audits government departments and agencies. This has included launching a strategic review of the NAO that will be informed by its work around Brexit.

“We're taking a lot of us both internally and from external stakeholders who we work with the departments and organisations, we audit people with an interest in the work of the NAO from outside.”

Brexit is “changing government”, he said, and has led the NAO to adapt its approach to match the changing workflows of departments.

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“Lots of permanent secretaries have reflected on the fact that this whole exercise has achieved significant amount of cross government working, sharing of staff sharing of information,” Davies said. “So in return, of course, the NAO approach has had to adapt to that way of government working.

The shift to cross-government working to specific deadlines set for Brexit is “quite a challenge for auditors who are used to a target that's not moving necessarily”, he said, explaining that NAO teams have worked on real-time evaluations of many Brexit projects.

“So we'll be learning from that because this this approach doesn't work for everything. It's not even it's not appropriate for every topic. But where it is needed, it's important to be able to do it confidently and crucially without compromising your independence, because when the auditor becomes part of the management process, clearly that then becomes very difficult to audit that process later. So how we stay on the right side of the line there was also producing constructive work is part of the challenge.”

When to intervene

Understanding where interventions can be best made in a government projects is a key part of his work, he said.

“If all you're doing is reporting past failures, that's got a value, but only a limited value,” he said. “And so I really welcome the fact that NAO has as in recent years been moving upstream.”

The work around Brexit has helped further catalyse this shift, with the NAO looking into projects that have been working to the UK’s planned exit dates first in March and then October, and with the departure from the EU now set for 31 January.

“So a significant number of people across the NAO have now had experience of carrying out work whilst the project is in progress and before it's delivered its intended outcomes, and using that can real time auditing to feed in results as they are emerging, with the intention of plugging gaps before they become a problem.”

One example is a NAO investigation into planning for the supply of medicines and other clinical goods in the event of a no-deal Brexit, undertaken with both the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department of Transport, which was done in real time.

“The feedback from the department was that, of course, this took some effort on their part to allow us to gather the information we needed for that work, but in return, they did get a valuable reflection of where there was still more work to be done and, did adjust their work programmes in response. That's audit it at its best, I think.”

When to intervene is particularly crucial on long running major projects in government, Davies said, such as infrastructure schemes like Crossrail or the forthcoming renewal or parliament.

“I think actually timing your interventions when it's going to be a value is part of the art on these long projects,” he said. “And I don't think any auditor would claim they'd always got that right, in hindsight.

“That's why on the restoration and renewal of Parliament project, so we're keen to get in very early, so that it isn't another example where you're saying ‘it's a shame you didn't apply the lessons in scoping this or pricing it or de risking it’, and so on. Getting the timing right is crucial, and the value that you can add as an auditor on a major project is pretty significant if you get that right, because, by definition, there's time to make an impact on what happens next. Sometimes on a short piece of work, the only possible way of auditing it is after it's completed. At that point is a purely retrospective process.”

Davies worked as UK head of public services for international audit firm Mazars from 2012 until joining the NAO, and before Mazars he was managing director of the audit practice at the Audit Commission, and spent a total of 25 years at the watchdog.

Listen to the full interview  on Apple PodcastsSoundcloud, and Spotify.

Tags Brexit Finance Operational Delivery Policymaking Procurement & Commercial Project & Programme Management Transformation Transparency & Open Data Categories Government and politics About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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Government 'less trusted than banks' on data handling

1 day 3 hours ago
News

Survey also shows 44% of people think government and regulators should be responsible for making sure data is handled ethically

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Photo: justgrimes/CC BY-SA 2.0

The general public trust government to handle their data less than they trust banks to do the same, a survey has revealed.

Just 30% of people surveyed by the Open Data Institute and YouGov said they trusted central government to use their personal data ethically, while 31% trusted local government.

This compares with 42% of the 2,007 people surveyed who said they trusted banks and building societies.

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Civil servants did fare better than utility providers, however, which were trusted to handle data ethically by just 18% of survey respondents, and social media organisations, which were trusted by only 5%.

The only organisation to secure the confidence of more than half of people in the survey was the NHS, with 59% saying they believed the health service could be trusted to handle their data.

The survey results showed how strongly people felt about how their information is used, with 87% saying they felt it was important or very important that the organisations they interacted with used data about them ethically.

And it also showed an appetite for government regulation, with nearly half of respondents – 44% – saying government and regulators should have the most responsibility for ensuring data about them is handled ethically. Meanwhile, 18% thought most responsibility should rest with the companies and organisations collecting data, 12% with individuals and just 3% with consumer rights organisations.

ODI chief executive Jeni Tennison said the results showed that people “quite rightly expect organisations to use their personal data ethically”.

“Organisations need to respond to their concerns and be more trustworthy in how they collect and use personal data. This is not only the right thing to do, it will help organisations to keep benefiting from the data they rely on and retain the trust of their customers and employees.

“Talking about using data ethically is not enough, organisations need to publicly demonstrate how they do this in order to build trust.”

Tags Digital, Data & AI IT & Security Project & Programme Management Categories Government and politics Image description justgrimes/CC BY-SA 2.0 Twitter Link

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Beckie Smith

DWP in-house IT company doubles in size

1 day 3 hours ago
News

Over two-year period BPDTS will have grown staff numbers from 451 to 1,124

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Credit: Peakpx

The in-house IT company of the Department for Work and Pensions nigh-on doubled in size during the 2019 financial year as it delivered an extra £10m of tech services.

During the 12 months to 31 March 2019, BPDTS Ltd saw its number of employees increase from 451 to 817, its newly published annual report reveals. During the current financial year, this is set to rise further to a total of 1,124.

In FY19 the company’s operating expenditure stood at £51.8m, compared with £42.4m in the prior year. By far the biggest contributor to this increase was staff costs, which spiked by £10m to a total of £41.4m.

In her foreword, BTDPTS chief executive Loveday Ryder said: “During 2018/19, the demand for our services increased and we responded immediately, implementing a faster and more effective recruitment process so that we scale rapidly. This has been not only a year of growth, but of consolidation, building a company we can all be proud of.”

BPDTS Ltd was incorporated in 2016 and is wholly owned by the DWP – which is, in effect, its only customer. Its creation was prompted by a drive to bring back in house IT services that were previously outsourced.

During FY19, the company set out to improve its performance across four key metrics: capacity; quality; capability; and efficiency. 

Within each of these was four quantifiable objectives.

21.4%
Percentage of interview candidates in FY19 that were women – ahead of the target of 17%, which is the IT industry average
 

£51.8m
Operating costs during FY19, a rise of 22.6% compared with the prior year
 

1,124
Forecast number of employees by the end of March 2020 – compared with 817 at the end of FY19 and 451 in 2018
 

36% 
Average cost savings of hiring permanent staff when compared with the comparable expense of using contractors
 

118
Average number of days taken by in FY19 to fix problems

In the area of capacity, BPDTS met its target of hiring practice leads for each of its service areas. It also achieved its goal of condensing its entire recruitment process – from publishing an advert to making an offer to a candidate – into a seven-week timeframe. The objective of ensuring at least 17% of interview candidates were women – in line with the industry average – was exceeded, with BPDTS’s rate standing at 21.4%. 

The target of retaining 95% of new hires for at least 12 months was also met.

The company fell a little short of its target of bringing in people at a rate of 80 per month as “initial set up to meet the increase in demand took some time”, the report said. But new hires reached the desired level in both November 2018 and January 2019, it added.

“In 2019/20, we plan to continue to scale up our business to meet the customer requirement,” the report said. “We will look to market best practice, so that we are learning from those around us and reflecting the expectations of candidates as they navigate our recruitment process. Once scaling up is complete, we will focus even more on candidate fit with the culture we are building in BPDTS alongside technical competence and experience.”

It added: “Having become more visible in the market over the last 12 months, we want to continue to develop our attraction strategy, not only to target digital talent across the market, but also understand how we can become the employer of choice for women and those looking for apprenticeship opportunities.”

Capacity gap
In FY19 BPDTS fixed problems in an average of 118 days – exceeding its target of 125, and achieved average customer-satisfaction levels above the baseline of three out of five. It also met its objective of spending 95% of its time on customer-facing work.

However, it was some way short of meeting its goal of reducing to a level of 16% its “capacity gap” – which is defined as “the lag between customer demand and fulfilment”. As of March 2019, the gap stood at 26%.

“It takes time for recruitment processes to respond to changes in demand, causing a slight lag between roles requested and filled,” the report said.

The company’s four objectives in the area of capability were met across the board.

Near-enough all employees went through a personal review and development plan during FY19, while the average number of days spent by staff on learning and development exceeded the target of five. An apprenticeship programme was created, as was a mentoring scheme – with 10% of employees already taking part as of year-end.

BPDTS also performed well in respect of its efficiency goals, with less than 20% of spending dedicated to overheads, and the cost of filling key roles with permanent staff was calculated as being 36% cheaper than if a contractor or temp had been placed in an equivalent position.

Mean working days lost to sickness stood at 5.6 per employee, while staff engagement levels spiked from 41% to 53%, according to the report.

Efficiency savings in the area of IT service management achieved during the year were calculated at 11% – some way below the target of 30% that was set by the DWP. But “the remaining predicted savings have been deferred in agreement with the customer”, the report said.

"BPDTS offers excellent value... at a reduced cost to the department relative to external suppliers, and we continue to benchmark our overhead costs and utilisation rates to ensure we remain competitive"
chair Jeremy Moore

Shortly after the 2019 fiscal year ended, BPDTS was classified as a non-departmental public body. This has entailed the appointment of five new non-executive directors from outside the civil service whose role is to provide “an independent oversight and constructive challenge to the executive directors”.

In August, the DWP kicked off its first “tailored review” of BPDTS. The goal of the exercise is “to ensure we remain fit for purpose, well governed and properly accountable”. A full report detailing the results of this review is expected to be published by March 2020.

In his foreword to the report, BPDTS chair Jeremy Moore said: “BPDTS offers excellent value for money by providing the high-quality service and skills required, at a reduced cost to the department relative to external suppliers, and we continue to benchmark our overhead costs and utilisation rates to ensure we remain competitive.”

He added: “We continue to support the strategic aims of DWP and most importantly help to sustain and improve the systems and processes that provide support to the lives and needs of millions of our fellow citizens. We aim to be the partner of choice for the department.”

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI Operational Delivery Science & Technology Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a verion of this story was first published.

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Richard Johnstone

Union lodges dispute over 'unbelievable' offer to fast streamers

1 day 4 hours ago
News

FDA writes to Rupert McNeil over proposed pay rise for Fast Stream civil servants

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The FDA has lodged a formal pay dispute over the offer made to fast streamers for this year, which they say falls well below the pay rise given to other civil servants.

The trade union has written to the civil service’s chief people officer, Rupert McNeil, saying that the latest offer to Fast Stream participants leaves most of them just £80 a year better off, before tax.

Fast streamers are set to receive a pay rise of between 0.5% and 1.5%, compared with a minimum 2% rise for other Cabinet Office staff.

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The Cabinet Office-wide raise is in line with guidance it put out for the whole civil service in summer, which allowed departments to offer their staff an average pay increase of up to 2%, and to decide how to split the raise among grades. Departments could then submit a business case to the Treasury asking for greater flexibility to award higher pay rises, although not all of those put forward have been accepted.

The union said that fast streamers had been “excluded” from band minima increases offered to other Cabinet Office staff, which it said ranged from 4% to 10%. The department has not yet funded an increase to Fast Stream pay band minima, making 2019-20 the third year in a row it has remained frozen.

The dispute comes after the FDA slammed the Cabinet Office for cutting performance-related bonuses for fast streamers, saying the reductions were "disappointing" as the Fast Stream was coming under pressure because of additional Brexit-related work.

More than half of the FDA’s centralised Fast Stream members based in the Cabinet Office voted in the union’s ballot on the pay offer and more than 99% of those that took part voted to reject it, according to the union’s national officer, Steven Littlewood.

The FDA is now consulting with its members over the next steps to take in its campaign.

“It is absolutely unbelievable that the Cabinet Office would think this offer was acceptable,” Littlewood said.

“While other Cabinet Office staff on band minima were offered between 4-10%, Fast Stream members were offered only a fraction of that, and to add insult to injury a majority would not benefit at all as the Fast Stream band minima remains frozen again for the third year in a row.

“No other grade minima in the civil service has been allowed to stagnate for as long as this in recent years. We are urging the Cabinet Office to meet with us and negotiate a proper settlement that delivers a meaningful pay rise for all Fast Stream staff.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "We have received the letter and will respond in due course."

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags HR Categories Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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The Civil Service World Podcast: Who keeps an eye on what departments are spending?

2 days 3 hours ago
Feature

CSW's new podcast looks at the work of the National Audit Office in accounting for government spending, and the impact of Brexit across departments

Listen and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, and Spotify.

On this week's episode of The Civil Service World Podcast, CSW's Richard Johnstone meets the new auditor general Gareth Davies to ask him the big questions about the NAO's role as a critical friend of departmental spending.
Hosted by Jess Bowie and Suzannah Brecknell.

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Richard Johnstone

Planned spending on public services not enough to improve quality, IfG warns

2 days 3 hours ago
News

Public sector pay cap key to "efficiencies" in services, think tank says

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The government will need to spend billions more than planned to improve critical services like hospitals, schools and social care over the next five years, the Institute for Government has warned.

The think tank said in its annual Performance Tracker report, published today, that while recent budget boosts for public services may account for demand and costs at 2019-20 levels, they likely will not be enough to cover rising costs in may services.

The IfG found that decisions made by under Theresa May have meant that the government spent £9.4bn more in 2019-20 than originally set out in 2015. The current Johnson government has gone further by pledging extra cash for policing, schools and prisons and halting cuts to departmental budgets for the upcoming year.

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However, it found that even these increases “may not be enough for the government to meet its own objectives for service improvement or expansion, such as better care for cancer patients and reduced levels of violence and self-harm in prisons”.

Meanwhile, many services are set to see a huge increase in demand. The IfG estimated that in social care alone, any future government would need to spend an additional £700m by 2023/24 just to keep pace with the increase in the number of people who will need publicly funded care.

More than half of the nine services the IfG looked at – prisons, schools, GP services, hospitals, adult social care, children’s social care, neighbourhood services, courts and police – will see demand rise faster than population growth.

The report noted it had used a “conservative estimate” of the funding that would be needed to meet this demand. The analysis does not account for any policy changes that could either increase demand or cost pressures above inflation, for example.

“The cost of public services could easily rise faster than prices in the economy overall,” it said, citing the lifting of the 1% pay cap in some public services 2017-18, and the increase in national minimum wage, which is pushing up the price of social care. Both the Conservative and Labour parties have pledged to increase the minimum wage further, meaning that the cost of these services will rise again following the December general election.

Meanwhile, increases in demand are likely to put strain on courts and prisons services, the IfG warned. The report follows a warning by the Public Accounts Committee last week that it was “far from clear” that the HM Courts and Tribunals Service would be able to cope with a “potentially huge spike in demand” that is likely to follow the prime minister’s announcement of plans to recruit 10,000 police officers.

The Johnson government has set itself a borrowing cap of 2% of GDP, and therefore faces difficult trade-offs for 2020-21 between reducing the quality or scope of services; increasing how much people pay for services; cutting other services; or raising taxes, the report said.

It said that “most public services apart from prisons and children’s social care” have become more efficient since the onset of austerity in 2010 – so that it now costs less in real terms to deliver services of the same quality. The public-sector pay cap contributed to this  and was the “key contributor to efficiency gains in most services”, it said.

And despite these efficiency gains, the report found that all services had seen a decline in performance, both in scope and quality – with waiting times for both A&E and GP services rising and a greater reliance on informal social care from family and friends rather than state provision.

This decline in performance – which has arisen because efficiencies “have not been enough to bridge the growing gap between spending and demand” in most services – has been “less substantial than might be expected”, the report said.

However, the IfG said the same approach would not be sustainable in the years to come. “Public services will struggle to keep providing services as efficiently as they do now – that is, delivering the same scope and quality of service on their current level of spending.”

And it added: “There might be more scope for further efficiencies. But public services will struggle to make them through the same methods – holding down pay and asking staff to work harder – as they have over the last nine years.

“Past experience of reforms to transform services shows that while they may improve services, they do not always save money.”

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Economy, Business & Infrastructure Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Beckie Smith

MHCLG seeks £140,000-a-year CFO to 'strengthen finance and commercial leadership'

2 days 5 hours ago
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Successful candidate will oversee the development of a digital strategy as well as providing commercial leadership

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The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is seeking a chief financial officer to boost the department’s “strategic and professional leadership on finance, commercial and wider corporate issues”.

The £140,000-a-year, director general-level job means being responsible for MHCLG’s operations, including overseeing the operating framework for its arm’s-length bodies. They will also oversee HR in the department, including diversity targets and implementing a new strategic workforce plan.

The CFO will help to lead the finance profession and deliver the cross-government finance strategy, as well as providing commercial leadership, overseeing the “large and growing” portfolio of financial investments in housing managed by Homes England, according to a job advert.

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The role also includes overseeing negotiations between the Treasury and the department about major fiscal events such as spending reviews and budgets.

The successful candidate will also be in charge of developing a new digital strategy for MHCLG, which will improve its internal tech support and use technology and automation more effectively to increase productivity.

Alongside this they will oversee the department’s analysis and data function, to “ensure MHCLG develops into a ‘data driven organisation’ in line with the government’s data strategy, creating opportunities to embed innovative data solutions across the department and improve efficiency and informed policy development and its impact across the department”, the job ad said.

The job advert calls for an “outstanding, collaborative and inclusive leader” with the “ability to navigate and transform the performance and culture of large organisations with diffuse accountability and capable of making change stick”.

Applicants are therefore expected to have a preference for working collaboratively and be able to achieve their goals through “strong relationships, persuasion and influencing rather than positional power”, it added. They must therefore be able to be credible and confident dealing with public servants, businesses and ministers.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Categories Communities, housing and planning Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Beckie Smith

Latest civil service & public affairs moves — November 11

2 days 6 hours ago
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New appointments in the civil service, UK politics, and public affairs, via our colleagues at Dods People

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Government departments

  • Wales Office: Alun Cairns resigned as secretary of state for Wales.
  • Home Office: John Woodcock appointed as the UK special envoy for countering violent extremism.
  • Northern Ireland Office: Drainage Council for Northern Ireland - Alan Strong, Andrew Wilson, Brendan Kerr and Bernie Lafferty had their appointments as specialist members extended, Beth Adger, Bernice Swift, Billy Webb, Samuel Cole and Cadogan Enright had their appointments as local council representative members extended, and Jonathan McKee and Angus Kerr appointed as departmental representatives.
  • Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Office of Communications – Jonathan Oxley appointed as interim chief executive from the end of November; Royal Armouries - John Procter appointed as chair.
  • HM Treasury: National Savings and Investments – Ed Anderson reappointed as chair of the board; Financial Conduct Authority: Liam Coleman, Alice Maynard and Tommaso Valletti to become non-executive directors; Royal Mint Advisory Committee – Blondell Cluff reappointed; Financial Reporting Council – Andrew Johnston replaced Martin Slack on the conduct committee, and Colin McCarthy-Little appointed to the audit quality review committee.
  • Ministry of Justice: Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody – Juliet Lyon reappointed as chair; Criminal Procedure Rule Committee - Paul Jarvis and Ed Smyth appointed as members; Cafcass – Caroline Corby reappointed as a board member; Civil Justice Council - Diane Astin, Nicola Critchley, Ian Karet and Matthew Smerdon reappointed as members; Judicial Pensions Board – Russell Agius reappointed.
  • Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: Small Business Commissioner’s Office: Yvonne Gale has been appointed as non-executive director for finance and procurement; Met Office: Alan Thorpe appointed as a non-executive Director; Public Weather Service Customer Group - Duncan Potts named as chair.
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office: David Ward has been appointed High Commissioner to the Independent State of Samoa.

Non-Ministerial Departments

  • Water Services Regulation Authority: Jonson Cox's appointment as chair has been extended.
  • Charity Commission: Sarah Atkinson to leave her director, policy, planning and communications role.

Devolved Authorities

  • National Assembly for Wales: Gareth Bennett left the UK Independence Party and now sits as an Independent.
  • Scottish Parliament: Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body – David Stewart appointed to the body; Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland (Amendment) Bill Committee – Bill Bowman, Christine Grahame, Monica Lennon and John Mason appointed as members.

House of Commons

  • Lindsay Hoyle was elected as Speaker.

House of Lords

  • Baroness Wilcox of Newport was introduced as a Labour life peer on 4 November.
  • Baroness Blower was introduced as a Labour life peer on 4 November.
  • Lord Choudrey was introduced as a Conservative life peer on 5 November.
  • Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick was introduced as a non-affiliated life peer on 5 November.

Parties:

  • Labour Party: Tom Watson to stand down as deputy leader on 12 December.

Local Authorities

  • Daventry District Council:  Richard Auger has replaced Chris Millar as council leader.
  • By-election Results 7 November: Croydon Council – Caragh Skipper elected for Fairfield – Labour hold (caused by the resignation of Labour councillor Niroshan Sirisena); Chelmsford Council – Smita Rajesh elected for Marconi – Liberal Democrat hold (caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Catherine Finnecy); Cornwall Council – Robin Moorcroft elected for Wadebridge West – Independent gain from Liberal Democrat (caused by the resignation of Liberal Democrat councillor Karen McHugh); Pembrokeshire Council – Stephen Alerman elected for Hundleton – Independent gain from Independent (caused by the death of Independent councillor Margot Bateman); Shetland Council – Stephen Flaws elected for Lerwick South – Independent gain from Independent (caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Beatrice Wishart); Shetland Council – Moraig Lyall elected for Shetland Central – Independent gain from Independent (caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Mark Burgess).

Industry

If you and your organisation would like to be included in this section, then email us at editor@dodsgroup.com

Interest Groups

  • Social Mobility Foundation: Sarah Atkinson to become chief executive in January.
  • Unicef UK: Nick Roseveare is now the executive director on an interim basis.
  • Children’s Hospices Across Scotland: Rami Okasha to become chief executive in January.
  • Carers Trust: Gareth Howells to become chief executive in December.

Trade Associations

  • Radiocentre – Mike Ireland promoted to become head of public affairs.
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MoJ ‘may not cope’ with planned policing boost

2 days 8 hours ago
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Report warns plan to hire 20,000 extra police will ramp up sentencing, prisons and probation work

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The Ministry of Justice might not be able to cope with the knock-on effects of plans to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers over the next three years, a report has warned.

The stark observation came in a Public Accounts Committee report on MoJ executive agency HM Courts and Tribunals Service’s transforming courts and tribunals programme published on the day parliament was dissolved next month’s general election.

MPs said the police recruitment plans – announced by prime minister Boris Johnson in September – meant the MoJ was “facing a potentially huge spike in demand” for court, prison and probation services that it was “far from clear” the department could cope with.

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“The number of people being prosecuted and going to court, those being sentenced to prison terms and under the supervision of probation are all likely to rise,” the report said.

“The ministry is still working through the possible impact and quantifying the potential scale of the change, which will depend on when and where police will be deployed. 

“Given the operational and financial pressure that court, prison and probation services are already under, it is far from certain the ministry will have the capacity and capability to cope with a significant rise in demand. 

“Sustained cuts to the ministry’s funding have put services under strain. While the ministry received a 4.9% increase in the 2019–20 Spending Round, it is not clear if this will be enough to match new demands.”

MPs called on the MoJ to report back to it in six months’ time, setting out how it planned to maintain and improve services in the face of rising demand in the justice system – with particular reference to court and tribunal services, prisons and probation.

Elsewhere, the report noted that HMCTS’ courts and tribunals reforms were continuing to fall behind schedule and said the extra year added to its transformation programme – increasing its duration to seven years – may not be enough.

“Current and past delays, and the increasing scale and complexity of what is still to be done, make the timetable seem over-optimistic,” the report said.

“Enabling legislation continues to be delayed, some users remain unconvinced of the value of the changes and HMCTS needs to balance the tension between taking time to understand the impact of changes and the need to maintain momentum. 

“In this context, HMCTS and the Ministry cannot rule out further extensions to the timetable.”

The £1.2bn programme to modernise and upgrade the courts and tribunals system commenced in 2016. It aims to alter the way criminal, family and civil courts and tribunals operate by introducing new technology, working practices and changing the way HMCTS uses its buildings and employing 5,000 fewer staff – saving £244m a year in the process.

However MPs said they were concerned that the impact of the raft of court closures that is a pillar of HMCTS’ plans to host 2.4m fewer cases a year in physical courtrooms was not properly understood. The service has closed 127 courts since 2015 and plans to shut a further 77 courts in the next phase of the reforms. 

“HMCTS  risks undermining public confidence in the fairness of the justice system by proceeding with its reforms without sufficiently demonstrating it understands the impact on justice outcomes or people,” it said.

“HMCTS is rolling out new systems and processes without first assessing the success, or otherwise, of experiences to date. 

“To date its evaluation has largely been process-based, focussing on how new technology is working rather than the impact on people or justice outcomes. 

“For example, HMCTS has not fully explored the impact that using video-hearings has on outcomes for defendants. Although some digitised services like divorce seem to be working well, representatives from Transform Justice, Law Centres Network and the Law Society are concerned about how online services may disadvantage users with low digital or legal literacy. 

“Such people may be less likely to seek legal representation, putting them at risk of making uninformed decisions or incurring unknown costs.”

It said an interim evaluation that was due to look at those issues was not due to report until 2021, which was “too long to wait for a better understanding of impacts”.

Echoing concerns flagged by the National Audit Office in September, MPs observed that HMCTS could not demonstrate that £133m in claimed savings from the programme to were attributable to the reforms, meaning taxpayers could not be confident they were getting what was promised. 

“HMCTS cannot clearly demonstrate the link between where savings come from and the reforms it has introduced,” the report said 

“It acknowledges that this is difficult due to its limited understanding of precisely what its staff are doing and is working to improve its data.

“Although we recognise work is underway to address this, we are surprised it is not more advanced given the need to demonstrate to parliament and the public that the reforms are delivering what was promised.”

HMCTS chief executive Susan Acland-Hood said the report reflected the ambitious and challenging nature of the programme and the progress being made. 

But she also accepted the need for the service to “redouble” its efforts to listen to and engage with all those who work within the justice system. 

“The committee acknowledges improvements in this area but rightly says there is more to do to win hearts and minds,” she said.

“By re-designing the justice system around those who use it we are making it more accessible to all. More than 250,000 members of the public have used our new online services since last year with over 80% satisfied.

“Many of those users have told us that such services – like the new online civil money claims service that has now received more than 100,000 claims – have given them access to justice not previously available.”

She added: “Improving access to justice is at the heart of our programme and we will continue to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable as it progresses.”

 

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Home Office taking 'substantially' longer to process asylum claims than five years ago

5 days 2 hours ago
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Budget cuts and policy changes could be among reasons for delays, Migration Observatory says

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Home Office headquarters in Whitehall. Photo: Yui Mok/PA

The Home Office is taking “substantially” longer to process asylum claims than it was five years ago, research by the Migration Observatory has revealed.

Three-quarters of asylum applicants now wait more than six months for an initial decision on their asylum case, up from a fifth in 2014, the University of Oxford-based research centre found.

The Home Office admitted earlier this year that it had scrapped its target to reach an initial decision for asylum claims within six months. It said it would instead “concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability”.

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There were 32,000 people with outstanding asylum claims awaiting an initial decision on 30 June, when the researchers looked at the data. Nearly half – around 17,000 – had been waiting for more than six months.

The initial decision is only the first stage in the asylum process, which can extend to years for “many applicants” once appeals are accounted for, Peter Walsh, a researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said.

“There is no single explanation for the falling share of decisions taken in six months,” he said. “Factors that could have played a role include changes to policy and management, the complexity of the cases the Home Office receives, and of course budget constraints.”

Overall, the report found that 55% of applications lodged between 2012 and 2016 were eventually successful.

Of the total, 38% received a grant of asylum, humanitarian protection or another form of leave to remain at the initial decision stage. Three-quarters of applicants who were initially rejected appealed – of which 40% were successful on appeal.

The report, published yesterday, also found a “highly unequal distribution” of asylum seekers around the country. Twenty local authorities, mostly in Scotland and the north of England, host as many asylum seekers as the remaining 362 combined, it said.

More than 150 local authorities did not host any asylum seekers in the year to June 2019, the researchers said.

Local authorities are not obliged to host asylum seekers and critics, including the Home Affairs Select Committee, have warned that governance arrangements for asylum-seeker housing risk becoming a deterrent for local government.

HASC has urged the government to step up its support for and engagement with local authorities and to make them responsible for inspecting properties – which is now left up to private contractors that run the services.

In April, the Home Office turned down the recommendation to transfer responsibility for inspections but said it was developing new structures to create a “more tripartite relationship” between local government, contractors and the Home Office.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Justice and Public Safety Categories Government and politics Public order, justice and rights About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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DfT in funding talks as Crossrail opening is pushed back to 2021

5 days 6 hours ago
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Transport for London and department need up to £650m more to complete late-running project

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A passenger walkway forming part of the Crossrail project Credit: PA

London’s new east-west rail line will not open until 2021 at the earliest and could require up to £650m of additional funding to complete, the company tasked with delivering the project has admitted.

Billed for years as being “on time and on budget”, the trans-capital Crossrail route was due to start running services through tunnels under central London in December last year – but an update today makes clear the project will be at least two years late and cost a minimum of £18bn.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, TfL, the sponsor for delivery body Crossrail Ltd, said it had been advised that the rail line would require £400m over and above a funding package agreed last year had delivered and could potentially need even more.

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The December 2018 package pushed the project budget up to £17.6bn – a figure that was itself £2.8bn higher than the budget set in the 2010 Spending Review.

TfL also today confirmed that the key central section of Crossrail, featuring 26 miles of new tunnels, will not open to passenger services in 2020 as planned. It calls the project the Elizabeth Line, which is how the route linking Heathrow and Reading in the west to Shenfield in Essex and Abbey Wood in south-east London will be known when it is operational.

TfL said the latest projections showed a central cost forecast including risk contingency that was £400m more than previously committed, adding: “Further modelling scenarios consider even higher levels of risk of £650m more than the funding committed under the financing package."

It said TfL and DfT are "in discussion regarding how funding of these additional costs will be resolved".

DfT confirmed solutions were being considered that would "allow Crossrail to continue building" while the financing issues were sorted out.

Under last year’s deal, DfT agreed to loan £1.3bn to the Greater London Authority – TfL’s parent body – for repayment via London’s business rate supplement. It also agreed to make a further £750m loan available as a contingency move. TfL agreed to make a £100m contribution to the new package, which followed £590m in additional funding provided by the government in July.

Despite confirming that through services would not commence until 2021 at the earliest, Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild insisted that the project had “made good progress” in recent months.

“A key focus during 2019 has been finalising the stations, tunnels, portals and shafts. By the end of the year, Custom House, Farringdon and Tottenham Court Road stations will be complete and the project is on track to finish fit-out of the tunnels in January,” he said.

“The central section will be substantially complete by the end of the first quarter in 2020, except for Bond Street and Whitechapel stations where work will continue.

“The two critical paths for the project remain software development for the signalling and train systems, and the complex assurance and handover process for the railway.

“Crossrail Ltd will need further time to complete software development for the signalling and train systems and the safety approvals process for the railway.

“Our latest assessment is that the opening of the central section will not occur in 2020, which was the first part of our previously declared opening window. The Elizabeth Line will open as soon as practically possible in 2021.”

Wild said he expected to provide Londoners with “further certainty” about when the line would open “early in 2020”.

Crossrail bosses waited until last August – fewer than four months before the line's scheduled opening – to admit that they needed more time to complete the fitting out of the central tunnels and to develop key software packages for the railway.

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has been scathing about DfT and TfL’s handling of many aspects of the project.

Earlier this year, an update report said a member of the committee had visited a Crossrail site in June 2018 and had been told that the programme was still on track for a December opening.

PAC said there was an “incongruity” between how the programme had been previously described as performing so well and that such significant issues had emerged so quickly.

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Whitehall tech temps top 3,000

5 days 7 hours ago
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Minister reveals that, at most recent count, about 3,500 DDaT freelancers were employed by government

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More than one in five digital, data and technology professionals across government is a contractor or temporary worker, a minister has said.

In an exchange of written parliamentary questions and answers with shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett, minister for implementation Simon Hart estimated that there are “17,000 DDaT professionals employed across government”.

In answering a follow-up question, Hart added that a “DDaT workforce commission” undertaken by government in July 2019 had been able to “validate” the employment status of 15,508 workers in digital and data roles.

Of these, some 9,955 are permanent civil servants.

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A total of 3,469 – which equates to a little over 20% of the overall estimated tally of 17,000 – are contingent workers. This includes temps, freelancers, and contractors. 

A further 2,084 people are, Hart said, “professionals with an unreported resource type”.

The figures are the latest indicator of the extent to which the demands of Brexit – particularly those related to major IT projects – are creating lots of government work for contractors. Data published this summer found that, in 2018/19, government spending on temporary staff and external consultants rose by £267m compared with the prior year. This equates to a 17.9% annual increase.

In March 2019, another parliamentary question from Trickett revealed that 97.8% of staff working on a major immigration IT system were temporary workers. Out of a total of 360 people delivering the Immigration Platform Technologies project, just eight were civil servants, it was revealed.

In the last few months, numerous government departments have posted contract notices for so-called ‘bench’ arrangements – in which an external company is contracted to deliver teams and individual specialists at short notice. GDS recently awarded a trio of £1m year-long contracts for providers to deliver “urgent” support with its Brexit work as and when required.

Three weeks ago, the Home Office, meanwhile, tendered a £3m contract for a technology partner to support its work over the next two years as it strives to meet “an unprecedented number of challenges” – principally caused by Brexit.

Author Display Name Sam Trendall Tags Digital, Data & AI HR Operational Delivery Categories Government and politics Science, technology and research About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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Regulator set to probe HMRC’s £7bn corporation tax stats error

5 days 8 hours ago
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Independent assessment will look at department’s quality management approach after longstanding double-counting issue

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The Office for Statistics Regulation has confirmed it is to review the quality-assurance principles and processes HM Revenue and Customs uses for its data publication after a double-counting error added almost £7bn to its Corporation Tax receipt statistics.

Director general for regulation Ed Humpherson said HMRC had invited the watchdog to give an independent assessment of the department’s quality-management approach and identify areas of improvement after the “significant error” emerged earlier this year.

While the error – revealed by HMRC in September – has not resulted in any financial loss to the nation's coffers, it did mean that Corporation Tax receipts statistics reflected a figure that grew to become a combined £6.95bn higher than should have been the case between April 2011 and July 2019.

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Humpherson said HMRC’s most recent set of Corporation Tax statistics, published in September, had corrected the data and noted that the actual figures reported in HMRC’s accounts remained the same.

“We know that HMRC very much regrets this error, and we are pleased to help you take a proactive approach to improving quality management processes across your statistics,” he wrote in a letter to HMRC chief statistician Sean Whellams this week.

 “We intend that our final recommendations will be forward looking and focus on improvements HMRC can make to help avoid issues in the future.

“The review will consider: existing quality assurance (QA) processes and current improvement plans within the Knowledge, Analysis and Intelligence (KAI) directorate of HMRC; how QA of official statistics works in practice within KAI; the processes in place for handling errors and managing risk during statistical production; and the levels of risk of different sources of error in KAI’s statistical production processes.”

In a letter to Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier in September, then-HMRC second permanent secretary Jim Harra said Corporation Tax statistics needed to take account of Corporation Tax Credits – which are reliefs designed to encourage various activities.

Harra, who is now the department’s perm sec, said the credits either reduced a company’s liability to corporation tax or made a payment to the firm and that the value of the credits was added to the payments received.

“Quality assurance checks have identified some double counting of credit values when using internal financial data in the statistical production process,” he said.

“The scale of the revisions varies between years. The revised Corporation Tax receipts figures published today are £650m lower in 2011-12, £2.3bn lower in 2017-18, and £4bn lower in 2018-19.”

Harra insisted it remained the case that onshore Corporation Tax receipts, including the Bank Surcharge, had risen significantly in recent years “with growth of 50% between 2011-12 and 2018-19”.

However, he accepted that the revisions affected the Office for National Statistics’ estimate of Public Sector Net Borrowing, which draws on the gross Corporation Tax receipts statistics.

HMRC spokesperson said the department very much regretted the statistical error and reiterated that it did not affect the amount of tax paid by companies and received by HMRC.

“A review has been launched into the analytical and quality assurance processes used to generate HMRC’s published statistics,” they said.

The latest Corporation Tax statistics from HMRC detail £55.1bn worth of receipts in 2018-19.

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OBR cancels release of fresh public finance forecasts after Sedwill advice

6 days 3 hours ago
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Cabinet Office says pre-election guidance applies to all civil servants and NDPB staff

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OBR chair Robert Chote. Photo: PA

The Office for Budget Responsibility has said it will not publish its restated government fiscal forecast as planned today after advice from cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

The Treasury-sponsored body, which provides independent economic forecasts and analysis of public finances, was due to give its restated forecast today, the date that the chancellor, Sajid Javid, had been due to give his first Budget speech. The Budget was cancelled after prime minister Boris Johnson pushed for a general election, which parliament eventually voted to hold on 12 December.

Last month the OBR notified the Treasury, as well as the committee of MPs that sponsors the department’s work, of its plans to publish a technical restatement of its March public finance forecast.

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This would have brought it “into line with current ONS statistical treatment”, the OBR said. It would have included up-to-date analysis of recent developments including the Office for National Statistics decision to include student debts into the public finances in December – which could have seen the recorded deficit rise by £12bn as most student loans will never be paid off.

It would not have included any new forecast judgements regarding the economy, the public finances or the impact of Brexit.

OBR chair Robert Chote said in his letter to Treasury permanent secretary that "given the importance of these changes for public understanding of the baseline against which the government will need to judge its fiscal policy options, we believe that it would be useful to explain publicly the impact that they would have had on our March forecast, had they been known at the time."

But in an announcement today, the OBR said: “This will no longer go ahead as the cabinet secretary has concluded that this would not be consistent with the Cabinet Office’s general election guidance.”

The pre-election guidance, which came into effect yesterday, prevents civil servants from making announcements that could influence an election during a campaign.

Asked about the OBR’s announcement, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "The Cabinet Office's guidance applies to all UK civil servants, and the board members and staff of non-departmental public bodies and arms’ length bodies."

The OBR announcement comes after it emerged that the government would not publish its estimates of how much the Labour Party policies would cost if the opposition were to win power in the upcoming election.

It was reported that Sedwill prevented the cross-departmental analysis from being made public just hours before the pre-election rules came into force, saying it would be inappropriate for officials to publish it.

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Commercial Economy, Business & Infrastructure Finance Categories Economics and finance Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Watchdogs lay down stats and data law to party leaders

6 days 3 hours ago
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UK Statistics Authority and ICO issue election warning ahead of five-week information onslaught

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Leaders of the UK’s main political parties have been handed carefully-worded warnings from the nation’s data and statistics regulators, urging them to keep their general-election campaigning within the law.

Both UK Statistics Authority chair Sir David Norgrove and Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham have published letters sent to party leaders reminding them of their legal obligations not to misuse official data, or break data protection rules.

Norgrove reminded leaders of his obligation to publicly flag the misuse of statistics in election and referendum campaigns, with repeated exchanges relating to claims that the European Union would save the UK £350m a week during the 2016 referendum the most notorious recent example.

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Norgrove added that arguing about the incorrect use of official figures also took attention away from policy issues during the campaigning period.

“Statistics can be a powerful support for an argument but misuse damages their integrity, causes confusion and undermines trust,” he said.

“It can also lead debate to focus too much on the statistics themselves, distracting from the issues at hand. This is particularly important during the intense public scrutiny of an election campaign, where misinformation can spread quickly.”

Norgrove said it was important that campaigns did not pick out single numbers that differed from “the picture painted by the statistics as a whole” – which is a criticism that has been levelled at the Department for Education ministers in recent months.

Norgrove added that he had also sent his letter to cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s letter focuses on political parties’ use of people’s personal data as part of their campaigning and reminds leaders that data-protection and electronic marketing laws continue to apply during election periods.

She said the ICO’s recent investigation into the use of data analytics for political purposes found a number of concerns relating to the use of commercial behavioural advertising techniques and the lack of transparency of profiling during recent political campaigns. 

“The investigation identified a number of areas where action was required to improve each of the political parties’ compliance with data protection law. I outlined these concerns in warning letters to political parties in July 2018,” she said.

“Following on from the warning letters, we carried out data protection audits on a number of political parties as we promised to do in our investigation report.”

Denham said it was particularly important for political parties to ensure people were provided with clear and accessible information about how their personal data was being used – both in the case of data acquired directly and that bought from third parties. She said individuals had to be made aware of how their personal data was shared with social media platforms for the purposes of targeted political advertising.

“You must be able to demonstrate your compliance with the law,” she said. “And you must be able to demonstrate that any third party you use to process personal data on your behalf – including data analytics providers and online campaigning platforms – similarly complies.”

Denham said parties must be able to provide a fully auditable record of how personal data had been obtained and was being processed; ensure that appropriate records of consent were maintained; and identify lawful bases were identified when special category data was processed. 

“We are aware of the importance of having accessible resources on compliance for all those involved in campaigning,” she said. “We have therefore set up a webpage with advice specifically for political campaigners.”

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Dawes tipped to lead Ofcom as regulator announces interim chief exec

6 days 3 hours ago
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Dawes reportedly selected to replace Sharon White, who leaves this month

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Melanie Dawes. Photo: MHCLG

Ofcom has appointed an interim chief executive to take over when Sharon White steps down this month, amid reports that Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Melanie Dawes will take on the permanent position after the general election.

The telecoms regulator announced yesterday that Jonathan Oxley, group director for competition and a member of Ofcom’s board, would become interim chief executive at the end of this month while it finalised the appointment of White’s replacement.

White, a former Treasury second permanent secretary and No.10 Policy Unit adviser, is leaving to head up the John Lewis Partnership, it was announced in June.

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The announcement of Oxley’s appointment came as the Guardian reported that Dawes, Whitehall’s longest-serving female perm sec, had been selected for the £315,000-a-year chief exec role.

Ofcom has said it will announce White's replacement after the general election on 13 December. The role needs ministerial approval and therefore could be affected by the outcome of the election.

Dawes, who was appointed civil service diversity and inclusion champion in April, became perm sec at what was then DCLG in March 2015. Before joining the department she was director general of the Cabinet Office Economic and Domestic Affairs Secretariat, having previously worked at HM Revenue and Customs and the Treasury, latterly as HMRC’s director general for business tax.

Ofcom confirmed that Oxley did not apply for the permanent chief exec post. In a statement, the regulator said the recruitment process "continues and the Ofcom board expects to announce an appointment after the general election".

The watchdog's chair, Lord Burns, said Oxley was “is extremely well equipped to step up to provide important continuity for Ofcom and the sectors it regulates” – which include broadcast media, broad

Author Display Name Beckie Smith Tags Communications HR Categories Culture, media and sport Government and politics About the author

Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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Labour pledges to move civil servants out of London to give ‘power to communities’

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Shadow chancellor announces resurrection of government regional offices and a Treasury unit to oversee new Social Transformation Fund to be based outside the capital

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John McDonnell has announced that Labour would recreate regional government offices and that the Treasury unit tasked with overseeing a £150bn social transformation fund would be based outside of London in a bid to “put power into the hands of communities”.

In a speech in Liverpool today, the shadow chancellor said that a Labour victory in the general election on 12 December would herald an “irreversible shift in the centre of gravity in political decision making and investment” from London to the north of England, with the transformation fund would be used to “upgrade and expand” public infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses.

Spending would be overseen by a dedicated unit of the Treasury based in the north of England under plans to “reprogramme the Treasury” to implement Labour’s plans to shift the balance of economic power.

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“Our aim as a Labour government is to achieve what past Labour governments have aspired to,” he said. “An irreversible shift in the balance of power and wealth in favour of working people. That means change – means investment on a scale never seen before in this country and certainly never seen before in the north and outside of London and the south east.

“To achieve that objective also requires therefore an irreversible shift in the centre of gravity in political decision making and investment in this country from its location solely in London into the north and regions and nations of our country.”

The Treasury unit will be based outside London to ensure the regions gets their fair share of investment, he said.

“On the scale of change investment needed, I can tell you today that Labour’s National Transformation Fund will be bigger than we promised at the 2017 election. For areas that haven’t had their fair share for years, we’ll deliver £250bn of investment here and around the country over the next 10 years through our Green Transformation Fund.

“But it’s not just the natural world that’s been neglected. So we’ll also commit to an additional £150bn in a new Social Transformation Fund.”

McDonnell also set out other planned changes to move more civil servants out of London, including re-establishing government offices in the nine regions of England. These existed from 1994 until they were abolished by the Conservative-Lib Dem collation government in 2010.

These regional offices would be staffed by civil servants from departments including the Treasury, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and the departments of transport and education.

According to Labour, their responsibilities will include setting priorities for regional development banks the party has also pledged to create, setting priorities for regional spatial planning and industrial strategies, as well as identifying and delivering projects to be funded from the Local Transformation Funds.

The offices will be overseen by an executive board of county and city leaders in the area, according to the party.

McDonnell also set out further plans to reform the Treasury. “My Treasury ministerial meetings will no longer be solely in London,” he said. "Labour’s Treasury ministers will meet outside of London and will have a ministerial office in the north. The centre of gravity of political gravity is shifting away from London.

“This is where the investment is needed and this is where those decisions on investment need to be made on the ground. Power is coming home. Back to the people. We can only deliver the real change we need by putting power into the hands of communities.”

Reform of the Treasury has been a long-standing Labour pledge since the former head of the civil service Lord Bob Kerslake undertook a review for McDonnell in 2017 that said the department needed a much more sharply defined role to shake the perception among the rest of Whitehall that it is "arrogant, overbearing and negative". Kerslake has gone on to advise the party on its plans for government.

Tags Finance HR Leadership & Management Legal & Constitutional Operational Delivery Policymaking Transformation Categories Economics and finance Government and politics About the author

Richard Johnstone is CSW's deputy and online editor and tweets as @CSW_DepEd

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