Select Committee on Treasury Minutes of Evidence

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.


  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.[4]

  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 developments—including closer working on policy formulation which I know the Committee is interested in.


  You also asked about the state of play on the Inland Revenue's plans for addressing issues raised by the Peer Review Team.

  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:

(i)  Analysis

  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.

(iii)  Linkages

  Revenue Subject Divisions—each formerly covering one or more tax area—have 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

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