Friday 2 September 2011

The Revolving Door

My thanks to a loyal reader who has advised me that HMRC have announced who will be replacing a recently announced departure.

Simon MacDowall (HMRC's Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs for the last four years) is leaving at the end of October.

MacDowall (the longest serving communications director in Whitehall) will become a director at Emic Communications, which specialises in internal communications.

MacDowall explained that he is making the move because it ‘feels like the time’.

He said:

"You reach a point when you say ‘I think that’s long enough and its time to take these skills to the private sector".’

MacDowall added that the main issues his successor will need to handle include ‘supporting the HMRC Change programme with excellent internal comms, along with effective external comms with customers and stakeholders as HMRC makes improvements to services.’

He leaves after completing an internal review of HMRC’s comms, which was aimed at integrating devolved communications functions and focusing them on helping to achieve HMRC’s strategic objectives.
Stephen Hardwick has been appointed as HMRC’s interim director of communications and corporate affairs, and will start work on 19th September.

Dave Hartnett is quoted on HMRC's intranet as saying:

"I am delighted that Stephen has been appointed to this important role. He brings a wealth of experience and professionalism to the post and I very much look forward to working with him."

HMRC state that Hardwick is a former journalist, industrial relations writer, political adviser, public affairs director and policy and communications consultant.

In fact he spent nearly four years as the political and policy adviser to the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.


I though civil service appointments such as this were meant to be politically impartial?

Oh, and for good measure, he also spent nine years with BAA (the company that runs Heathrow so well).

He is quoted as saying:

"I am thrilled to be joining HMRC at this time of significant internal and external communications challenges.

As a customer with tax queries to resolve, I’ve always been impressed by the helpful professionalism of HMRC’s staff. 

But as an objective observer I can see that HMRC is facing some big operational, organisational and reputational issues. So I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues, both in the communications and marketing department and across the organisation, in helping HMRC to tell its story better and to engage openly and constructively with its staff and external stakeholders."

Now here is the rather odd thing, Hardwick is only an interim appointment, for a mere nine months in fact. During this time a "a fair and open recruitment will take place to identify a permanent successor for the role".

Now I am clearly being rather slow witted here, but why (if Hardwick is so good) does HMRC only give Hardwick the job for nine months?

Is it because Hardwick only wants to fill time for nine months before moving on?

I see that he is currently a busy chap working for Altitude Consultancy:

"We are different

We are not a conventional Westminster political consultancy. We recognise that times have changed: communications methods have evolved and clients demand more responsiveness, transparency and value for money

I assume he will leave Altitude, otherwise he would never have the time to fulfil two roles. That still of course does not answer why he is only an "interim" appointment?

Will he be paid the "normal rate" for the job, or will he be paid at "consultancy rates" (ie very expensive)?

Is his temporary nature because HMRC don't think that he is very good?
Either way, why not simply hire someone capable who is prepared to stay for more than nine months?

The method chosen by HMRC means that there will be additional costs to the taxpayer.

Call me a cynic, but do you not see something of a revolving door here?

One HMRC senior bod leaves to join the private sector, and vice versa....all very incestuous and not very healthy to my humble view!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Its a system used by many senior execs and is called 'share the shit around'.
    The problem is there is so much shit senior management at the glorious 103rd they could could keep the unsuspecting private sector headhunters busy for centuries finding jobs for all the HMRC excom staff who have finally been rumbled.

  2. Bet you a dollar against a dog biscuit that the reason for the 9 month engagement is that the consultancy firm is being used - "Doing a Deepak" to pay less tax.

    Which would also explain why the competition to find a permanent appointee is described as 'going to be fair and open competition' - basically because this one wasn't. But that is just my hunch, I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.

  3. So the incoming guys message acknowledges problems with operational, organisational and reputational issues and that HMRC needs to tell its story better, engage openly and constructively with its staff and external stakeholders.

    I read this as HMRC has not been doing very well in these areas then?

    I wonder if the applicants will be restricted to 1 hour of official time to complete their c.v. and competancies plus the application form?
    Because that's all HMRC is allowing their staff in the Great Texas Scramble for new jobs in Enforcement & Compliance.
    The employer has decided if you want or need more time tough, you will have to use your own!

    "A fair and open recruitment"?

    What a way to motivate and engage your staff as the PCS union has stated - well at least this appears to have woken them up at PCS HQ!

    Now children, don't forget to cast your vote in the next staff survey!

    Will HMRC allow you official time to complete it - you bet, take as much time as you need!

  4. All good points well made bar one: Hardwick may have worked for the Labour Party but we don't happen to have a Labour government at the moment. Hard to see how you could describe this as a political appointment. He's probably still a jerk though.

  5. MacDowall explained

    "You reach a point when you say ‘I think that’s long enough and its time to take these skills to the private sector".

    Oh, thanks Simon. Thanks for letting us know its long enough for you.
    The rest of us (minus 10,000 soon) wish you all the best.

  6. Simon the Mountie did fuck all for ages and anybody would be hard pressed to know what he actually did apart from looking like Ian Hislop's hairier and slighter useless younger brother. Absolutely no loss whatsoever when you realise he presided over the PAYE/NTS debacle of last year, the various TSC reports and the disk loss.
    But don't expect any changes to coms in HMRC anytime soon. Comms is only as good as the actions of the senior executives so normal service remians with the usual drivel of patronising BS, half truths and down right lies beibng spouted to internal staff and external taxpayers alike.

  7. So, as if by magic the revolving door continues to turn.
    Stand by for a few Excom types to spin out as September progresses along with a tranche of lesser souls at G6 maybe.
    Of course the retirement packages are not as good for these lower managers, oh well perhaps they will stay on earning their honest crusts?
    Standby for a host of people awards and back slapping combined with positive statements and more than a hint of chocolate starfish rimming.
    If HMRC were a horse it would have been put out of its misery years ago.
    BTW isn't BAA owned by foreigners, that bodes well for improved customer experience if past performance is anything to by!
    Perhaps he will start with a new logo and a snappy mission statement, that should see off a few hundred million, perhaps a billion or more with the reprinting and rebadging...
    then the loyalty offers, bank offshore, preferably China and we guarantee a reduced tax rate and no intrusive visits, or what about the ultimate accolade, corporate sponsorship of the tax system, tax collection sponsored by thugs'R'us,
    Call HMRC118118 we guarantee our Delhi call centre will answer your call within 3 minutes or your tax refund back.
    LOL ;)

  8. Yeah, what about the pirates?

    They are not all hanging about off the coast of Somalia you know!

    The new Pirates of the Caribbean are based on a number of offlying or offshore "treasure islands" such as the Caymans, BVI, Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos to name but a few.

    They don't have to raid ships anymore, they have a new tactic called taxus evasionus, it's foolproof as the victim organisation makes the rules and the pirates follow them.

    Long John Silver is catered for along with Blind Pete and Roger The Cabin Boy who caters to Seaman Staines and Master Bates all within HMRC diversification aand equal opportunities policies.

  9. Ken, I am quite surprised that you haven't picked up on the story that is on several news sites that HMRC will be assisting mortgage lenders in providing information (like credit reference agencies do) to banks/building societies about someones income.

    HMRC themselves don't seem keen to publicise it as it's not on any intranet front pages. Maybe it's due to the transition between the current marketing director and the next?


    Getting any information out of HMRC is akin to abstracting ARh+ from Granite.

    Like to know what bit of interpreted legislation is allowing for this no-brainer?

    What next, information from HMRC if you are seeking finance to buy a car.

    What ever could the motivation, do you suppose its a revenue raising attempt to reduce the impact of the real tax gap?

    If this is true it is the beginning of the end, it is privatised tax collecting!

    Must go, off to search for articles...

  11. @ 17:47
    Wow, sorry to have doubted you!

    Just been for a quick looksee and its all there plain as day, except for HMRC website where I entered in Mortgage Verification Scheme and couldn't find a thing, strange that?

    Some interesting questions raised already -
    What happens if HMRC gets it wrong, given their past track record in particular?
    Is there not something in the Tax Management Act to stop them doing this?
    What moral right have they to do this, I thought the responsibility for investigating mortgage fraud was laid to the Police?
    Is this a form of credibility checking being sold to the risk takers, for surely that is what this is, to protect the lenders?
    Is it the start of big brother oversight of spending to compare to declared income?(and why not?)
    When were HMRC going to inform the Taxpayers (sorry Customers)about this?
    Best of all can the lowly pensioner with a couple of hundred quid stashed away for a rainy day do the same in reverse for the investment risk they may be taking, don't stop there, extend it to pension funds, £25 inc. VAT and we tell you if Shyster Bank LLP regd in Bermuda is a safe fiscal bet.
    Now that would be duty of care and moral.
    HMRC PLC, you know it makes sense!
    Mind you the application of accounting basics and application of standard ratios would have told a sixth former something was up at Northern Rock.

  12. @3 September 2011 22:18

    One article says that it will simply verify whether the information matches.

    Providing someone signs a 'consent form' prepared by the mortgage lender it won't be illegal I'm afraid.

    There is a slight hint of entrapment though, as HMRC could compare the information with income submitted on personal returns etc.

    I assume the story was put out by mortgage lenders rather than HMRC as there is no hint of a press release on the website.

  13. "Ken, I am quite surprised that you haven't picked up on the story that is on several news sites that HMRC will be assisting mortgage lenders in providing information (like credit reference agencies do) to banks/building societies about someones income.

    HMRC themselves don't seem keen to publicise it as it's not on any intranet front pages. Maybe it's due to the transition between the current marketing director and the next? "

    Fear not I am not asleep, and was going to cover it next week:)

  14. Good old Ken, never one to miss a trick.

    The pace on this site has picked up over the last few weeks and is hitting the spot more often that not.

    Ever thought of becoming a motivational speaker for down in the mouth public agencies that have no morale, no self esteem and are delusional?
    There must be one that springs to mind, surely?

    It would be enlightening to have someone address the masses who inhabits the real world.

    The first thing you could address is management and how to lead by example and motivate other than by fear.
    You could run a civil service wide competition "100 uses for a used Pacesetter whiteboard"!

    Re-run the Ken for Pacesetter/OBE award scheme.

    There again, let them sink without trace and start from scratch...
    Ken Frost OBE CEO The Revenue LLP
    LOL :)