Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
24 JANUARY 2007
Q40 Jim Cousins: Okay. Of that so
far just over 8,000 has been achieved. Does that net reduction
of 8,000 include the more than 5,000 workers on fixed-term contracts?
Mr Gray: No. Our starting overall
staff figure includes the 5,000 on fixed-term appointments, so
we started roughly speaking, at 100,000, including roughly speaking
5,000 who were on fixed-term appointment rather than permanent.
The eight and a bit thousand reduction has been in the total.
There has been I think some small reduction within that overall
reduction accounted for by fixed-term appointments but we still
have a large number of people within our currently reduced total
who are on fixed-term appointment which gives us options and,
if you like, a degree of flexibility about how we manage the on-going
Q41 Jim Cousins: Let us be clear
about that because it is important. The overall net reduction
of 8,000 has not significantly reduced the 5,000 people on short-term
contracts, they are an on-going feature?
Mr Gray: There has been some reduction
but that has not been a major contributor so far.
Q42 Jim Cousins: In addition to the
5,000 people on short-term contracts, which is, let us face it,
convenient for you perhaps in an organisation but unsettling for
the workforce as a whole, how many thousand people do you have
who have been identified as pre-surplus or surplus? I ought to
tell you that I have a number of constituents who have informed
me that they have been identified as pre-surplus or surplus for
Mr Gray: I am afraid I do not
have in my head or immediately in the papers in front of me a
precise figure for the current numbers of pre-surplus staff but
over the last year or so we have been talking about several thousand
we have identified in that position. The point about pre-surplus
is that as the particular jobs that those individuals have been
doing are being phased out or ending, we have been giving staff
pre-surplus status, which I recognise involves a degree of uncertainty
and is unsettling for them, however our purpose is to identify
them as priority staff for redeployment into other jobs as the
composition of the workforce changes.
Q43 Jim Cousins: Perhaps you would
be kind enough to let the Committee know what the figure of surplus
and pre-surplus is.
Mr Gray: Yes, you want where we
Q44 Jim Cousins: In addition to that,
Mr Gray, you may not be aware of this but in answer to parliamentary
questions the Government has refused to tell me how many agency
workers it has in HMRC because under the ONS definitions agency
workers are not employees and so therefore they do not record
them. How many agency workers do you have?
Mr Gray: I am afraid again I do
not have that figure.
Q45 Jim Cousins: There is £106
million in the year 2005-06 on consultancy?
Mr Gray: Yes.
Q46 Jim Cousins: How much of that
money and how many people are actually individually self-employed
consultants who are bulking up the number of people you are actually
Mr Gray: Some of them are operating
on that individual basis.
Q47 Jim Cousins: How many?
Mr Gray: Again, I cannot give
you the figure off the top of my head.
Q48 Jim Cousins: Could you let the
Mr Gray: I will seek to do so.
Within our overall consultancy budget, which again I think we
had some dialogue about when I last appeared before the Committee,
we are talking about a range of different expenditures and quite
a large proportion of the consultancy budget is not of the sort
that you are talking about. I am also very actively reviewing
our overall consultancy position and am looking to reduce the
proportion of our budget that is going in that direction.
Jim Cousins: The Committee has had evidence
that in Southendnot an area I know well
Mr Newmark: A fine part of Essex!
Q49 Jim Cousins: A fine part of Essex,
yes indeed, I am prepared to believe thatthere are 200
contractors and consultants in the Southend office earning an
average rate of £650 a day. Could that be right ?
Mr Gray: It may be right, I do
not know whether it is precisely right or not. Southend is one
of our major locations for very substantial IT work and across
the different functions within the department our IT work is one
of the areas where we have had a degree of use of consultants,
not because we wish forever and a day to be having this work done
by consultants but we have found there are some skills gaps where
we do not have appropriately qualified staff to carry out the
changing roles, and in order to deliver what we need to deliver
my predecessors and I have taken a decision that that is the right
way to go, but in all of those areas we are looking to make sure
that we are skilling up our own staff working alongside the secondees
or consultants so that we get the appropriate skills transfer
and so that in future we are less dependent on that source of
Q50 Jim Cousins: You are going to
let the Committee know what the detail is. Can I just ask you
is it correct that in terms of uniformed Customs posts/permanent
offices, there is one covering the whole of Scotland, five uniformed
officers covering the whole of Wales, and in Devon and Cornwall
there is no fixed Customs presence?
Mr Gray: Mike may wish to add
to this in a minute. I am not sure about those precise figures
you gave but certainly we have moved, and the former Customs &
Excise before the creation of the department moved in some areas
of the country to a mobile deployment policy as the most appropriate
way in order to manage the risks we face at the frontier. Just
having people known to be in fixed positions at particular points
along the coastline rather than having a mixed economy of some
permanent deployment and a rapid reaction mobile force we have
felt over the last number of years is the right way to move.
Q51 Jim Cousins: Two offices in Wales,
Cardiff and Holyhead, and Scotland with a coastline as long as
France with one office?
Mr Gray: I am not sure about that
precise figure. I do not know if Mike can answer on that.
Mr Eland: I am afraid I do not
recognise those figures that you have given me. As Paul has said,
we have a variety of different means of covering the frontier,
some static, some mobile so I do not recognise the figures that
you have given me.
Q52 Jim Cousins: Perhaps if you do
not recognise the figures you could give us the figures that you
Mr Eland: I would be very happy
to produce a note on that for you, yes.
Mr Gray: I think another key point
here, Mr Cousins, is we need to measure the success of this approach
by how successful are we being on the level of seizures and the
level of weight of seizures.
Q53 Jim Cousins: The weight of drug
seizures is going down.
Mr Gray: Yes, but I think that
our performance on a number of
Q54 Jim Cousins: Do you recognise
that the weight of drug seizures is going down, since you mention
Mr Gray: I am not sure I do recognise
that as a clear trend.
Q55 Jim Cousins: It is in your Annual
Reports for 2004-05 and 2005-06. I looked them up just before
the Committee met.
Mr Gray: As Mike has said, we
will let you have a note in response to the earlier points.
Q56 Kerry McCarthy: Can I ask you
about staff morale in the wake of the merger. You mention in your
written evidence that you run a series of employee surveys.
Mr Gray: And we publish them.
Q57 Kerry McCarthy: And in the most
recent one that has been published, the May to June results, you
talk about uncertainty amongst a large group of staff at the changes.
What do you mean by uncertainty, do you mean unhappiness?
Mr Gray: I think I mean uncertainty
because we have entered the phase in the transformation of the
department in which we are changing quite significantly a number
of the ways in which we are doing our business, and that will
mean for significant numbers of staff either they are taking on
new roles or there are issues about the locations in which they
are working. Again at my last appearance before the Committee
we had some discussion with Mr Thurso in particular about the
announcements that we made last year about our plans for what
we are calling our workforce reduction programme in order to deliver
the targets both in headcount and finance that I was discussing
with Mr Cousins. I think that the general uncertainty that staff
have faced about their personal position has probably been a significant
Q58 Kerry McCarthy: So you are saying
that they are unsure about what is going on and what the impact
is going to be for them rather than saying they are unhappy with
the merger as it has proceeded to date?
Mr Gray: I would not pretend to
be able to give you a precise answer for every individual. My
judgment is that at the point we last measured, which was in mid-2006,
that followed the announcement of the further three-year settlement
for the department, again which Mr Cousins gave the figures on
earlier, and we had not at that stage formulated detailed plans
for the delivery of those targets. During the course of the autumn,
as we discussed in the last hearing I attended, we started a major
programme of engagement for the staff to share with them and engage
them and involve them in the development of those detailed plans.
I think the point at which we last measured staff opinions and
morale was probably at a particularly difficult point for lots
of people on our transformation journey.
Q59 Kerry McCarthy: Do you expect
the winter survey to show more positive results?
Mr Gray: I do not know is the
honest answer. I hope it might but I think during the second half
of 2006 the sort of issues that I have just described were still
very much there in the department so I prefer not to predict which
way it is going to go. I would be extremely disappointed if during
the course of 2007, as we are engaging staff much more fully and
they feel much more involved in defining the future direction
of the department and have greater certainty about what it means
for their areas of work more generally and for them in particular,
I would certainly hope during the course of 2007 we would see
an improvement in that measurement.
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