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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 480 - 499)



  Q480  John Mann: I am referring to your people management. Are you proud of your people management.

  Mr Timms: I want to set out the scale of the people management challenge.

  Q481  John Mann: With respect, Minister, you seem to be avoiding my question. Are you proud of your people management in HMRC?

  Mr Timms: No, I am not trying to avoid your question. I am attempting to answer it and I hope you will allow me to do so. There has been a huge people management challenge in HMRC. You have seen the effect of that in the very disappointing results of the staff survey on morale. Another big hit on morale has been the workforce change exercise and the work we have gone through to close down offices. We were talking earlier on about the flexibility in the Mapeley contract that has allowed us to do that. That had to be done, it was necessary, but it has been extremely difficult for staff in HMRC, particularly when a number of them did not know where they were going to be working.

  Q482  John Mann: Are you proud of your people management in HMRC?

  Mr Timms: Having done that, I think we can look forward to a much more certain future for people in HMRC. I hope we will see an improvement in staff survey results, reflecting good people management in the future.

  Q483  John Mann: Would it be possible to have anything other than improvement in the survey results?

  Mr Timms: I certainly very much look forward to an improvement. I agree that one is much needed. HMRC recognises that.

  Q484  John Mann: Do you have confidence in your senior civil servants in HMRC?

  Mr Timms: Yes, I do.

  Q485  John Mann: Why is it that 89% of the staff do not have confidence? Why do they have a different view from yours?

  Mr Timms: I think that is a reflection of the challenges the organisation has had to go through over the last few years, as I have set out. With the appointment of Mike Clasper as Chairman of HMRC and Lesley Strathie as Chief Executive, there is now a very impressive team at the top of HMRC. They have been talking me through their proposals for strategy for the organisation. The strategy that is emerging is a very compelling strategy and I do believe that will be translated into better and more successful people management and a more confident organisation in the period ahead.

  Q486  John Mann: The Treasury loves evidence-based analysis. What analysis do you have that demonstrates anything other than high morale leads to high performance?

  Mr Timms: The evidence that high morale leads to good performance is compelling.

  Q487  John Mann: In HMRC there is evidentially low morale. How much have you quantified the consequential low performance?

  Mr Timms: If you look at what HMRC has achieved—that is something that we measure very carefully and some of the data is in the report that the Committee has—the achievements have been very impressive through what I have said has necessarily been a very difficult period. Could it have been better if it had not been necessary to reduce the size of the organisation? Perhaps.

  Q488  John Mann: What tax loss do you project because of the ongoing low staff morale?

  Mr Timms: I do not have a projection for that.

  Q489  John Mann: Does anybody in HMRC have a projection for that, whether published or otherwise?

  Mr Timms: I would imagine probably not.

  Q490  John Mann: Why not? If one looks at how every other business does its business, quantifying staff morale and importance would be a fairly mainstream and important factor. There seems to be uniqueness in HMRC—

  Mr Timms: No, I do not think that is fair.

  Q491  John Mann: You do not appear to have quantified the potential loss in output from low staff morale. We can quantify low staff morale.

  Mr Timms: Yes, indeed.

  Q492  John Mann: What attempts have been made to quantify the consequential performance reduction and, specifically, the projected tax loss to be quantified from that low staff morale?

  Mr Timms: It is important that credit is given to HMRC for tracking staff morale in the way that you describe. It certainly is not the case that that is not a subject of interest or that it is not properly tracked. It is properly tracked and carefully for exactly the reasons you state. Would HMRC have been able to achieve more if it had not had to reduce its staff numbers by 20,000, if it had not had to shut down offices and so on? Perhaps it might. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to quantify what that might have been. Instead, what is being done—and in my view this is absolutely the right thing—is setting very clear objectives for closing the tax gap, for example, and putting in place the organisational changes, the IT changes, that will enable HMRC to do a better job in the future.

  Q493  John Mann: Have you personally, as the Minister, experienced over the last two years any evidence of discrimination, harassment or bullying at work within HMRC?

  Mr Timms: Have I personally experienced that? No.

  Q494  John Mann: Have you witnessed any?

  Mr Timms: No.

  Q495  John Mann: Are you aware of any?

  Mr Timms: I am aware from correspondence that I have received that from time to time complaints of that kind are made.

  Q496  John Mann: How prevalent in your judgment is it?

  Mr Timms: I have not been able to substantiate personally any of the complaints that have been raised with me about that.

  Q497  John Mann: I would not necessarily expect you as the Minster to substantiate individual cases, but, because it is your role to have a view of the overall position, how prevalent is harassment, discrimination and bullying at work within HMRC?

  Mr Timms: I do not believe any of those are prevalent in HMRC.

  Q498  Mr Tyrie: Within a one-year period, 84% of your staff have experienced it. Do you know of anywhere else within the public sector where there is that level of discrimination, harassment and bullying being self-identified by staff?

  Mr Timms: I think you are slightly misrepresenting the data. I do not think that is 84% of people who have experienced those things.[7]

  Q499  John Mann: I am not misrepresenting the data. Any self-defined expression of view is subjective: that is what the person thinks. The data is that 84% of your staff say they have experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying at work in the last 12 months.

  Mr Timms: I do not think they are saying they have been on the receiving end of those things. That is as I understand the survey.

7   Note by witness: The figure across HMRC is 16% experiencing bullying, harassment or discrimination. There appears to have been some misunderstanding of the survey results. The breakdown of the results gives percentage positive scores meaning that 84% have not experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination. There is a footnote in the results which states "Positive = no, staff have not had this experience and Negative = yes, staff have has this experience". Back

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