Administration and expenditure of the Chancellor's departments, 2008-09 - Treasury Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 153 - 159)



  Q153  Chairman: Good afternoon, can I welcome you back to the Sub-Committee; could you introduce yourself formally, please, and your colleagues?

  Ms Strathie: I am Lesley Strathie, I am the Chief Executive of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, I am the Principal Accounting Officer. On my right is Simon Bowles, the Chief Finance Officer, who joined the Department in March this year and on my left is Richard Summersgill, the Director of Benefits and Credits.

  Q154  Chairman: Thank you very much. The Capability Review in 2007 that we referred to in our last Report identified eight areas where you needed to improve, four of them urgently. You have issued your new document, Purpose, Vision and Way, you have got a new board, are you now fit for purpose?

  Ms Strathie: We are very much fit for purpose but we have just gone through a pretty rigorous self-assessment at the two year stage. We are having our two-year re-review early and the Cabinet Office capability team have been with us until the end of last week. We currently await their findings on our self-assessment and we will issue in due course the results of that. We feel that we have moved forward enormously but we still recognise that there is a lot more to do and we have plans about what we will do.

  Q155  Chairman: Two years after that Capability Review are you warning us then that there might still be some areas for improvement?

  Ms Strathie: Yes. If we consider the ratings in terms of urgent development areas, development areas right through to strong in green, then our self-assessment has not given us all green, there are many areas where we recognise that we have got more to do and, as I say, we await the capability review team's findings on our self-assessment, and then there is a moderation process beyond. We still think that in most areas we have moved forward at least one level and in a couple of areas we think we have moved forward two.

  Q156  Chairman: You carried out a staff survey back in February which showed that 70% of your staff did not think change was well-managed; 67% thought the changes would not be for the better and 64% felt as a whole the service was not well-managed. What can you say to convince us that you are taking your staff with you?

  Ms Strathie: In short the survey tells us we are not and we take that incredibly seriously. One of the points that you have not mentioned is that the survey also tells us that amongst our managers many of them do not think they need to change. If we look at the challenge facing the department in terms of the head count reductions that we face, the degree to which our workforce has had to change job, change location and the uncertainty that has been created for many we have a very strong message in the survey of people who want to stay with the organisation but do not feel that they are clear about their future or that they would recommend HMRC as a good place to work. We are re-reviewing now, the survey is live at the moment, it finishes at the end of this week. The survey that is being carried out now is civil service wide—we were part of a pilot of 11 departments then—and it is a slightly different set of questions based on what we learnt from the pilot. Those results will be published in January but we recognise that clarity for our workforce about whether they have a future in the department, what that future looks like and how we are going to manage those people where we do not have a job for them in the future is going to be an on-going challenge for us.

  Q157  Chairman: My colleagues will certainly pick up on that survey later on. I understand by the end of the next financial year you are going to cut a further 3,811 staff; how are you going to do that without further reducing morale?

  Ms Strathie: I cannot promise that there is not a danger in morale but given how low our scores are there is not much further to fall. We have a very disengaged workforce if we take it purely on the survey, but I actually think it is part of a basket of measures. My job, I believe, is to be absolutely honest with our people about how many jobs there will be, where they will be, what the opportunities are in all of the support package we have put in in terms of paying for people's transport, laying on different means of them getting to work, covering their extra expense and retraining them, but if at the end of the day there is not a job then we need to be clear and terminate that employment. Everything we are doing at the moment is to avoid compulsory redundancies, to take every step that we can do and currently we have a lot of volunteers. My approach will always be to try and find another job for someone if we can and actually we have managed to find jobs for 1750 people across other government departments and so far less than 7,000 people have been severed, all on voluntary terms.

  Chairman: Andrew Tyrie, you had a question on this.

  Q158  Mr Tyrie: You just said you have a "very disengaged workforce".

  Ms Strathie: According to the survey.

  Q159  Mr Tyrie: What is your estimate of the effect that is having on the yield?

  Ms Strathie: One could speculate. Very simply, my entire career has been leadership-driven with very large battalions of people and very similar challenges in terms of the balance between what modernisation offers us versus the impact on people and jobs. I would say that every week I visit a part of HMRC and every week I see people working incredibly hard, incredibly proud of what they do and working flat out to close the tax gap or hit any of our other priorities, but at the end of the day we are asking them how they view their department, whether they are proud to work for the department and how they rate senior managers. It shows us very clearly in the survey that people are proud of their own job, they are usually relatively happy with their immediate line manager and then when you ask what do you think of your line manager's line manager it is less popular and it goes right up. I do not take the survey as the only measure of morale, that is my point, but I do take it really seriously that people want to stay with us but do not want to recommend us or say that they are proud to work for us.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2010
Prepared 9 March 2010