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Tuesday, 1 November 2011
HMRC Staff Survey - Political Arm Twisting
Following on from my article about the fall in percentage responses to the HMRC staff survey (down from 69% to 52%), Taxation have published an interesting report about the political arm twisting that went on behind the scenes in the run up to this year's HMRC staff survey.
Loyal readers will doubtless recall that in April this year, Steve Lamey of Excom set the cat amongst the pigeons by stating that offices with low engagement scores would be closed.
Taxation made a Freedom of Information Act request, and obtained correspondence received and sent from the office of HMRC CEO Lesley Strathie. The correspondence shows, unsurprisingly, that PCS and ARC received complaints from members who were somewhat "underwhelmed" by Lamey's remarks.
The Grande Dame then went on to issue an intranet message, saying that poor engagement would be considered only because it made offices less productive. HMRC’s media relations department went into damage limitation mode and prepared a media statement, which claimed:
"Staff engagement does not decide where we maintain a physical presence".
It then went on to deny what had previously been stated by Lamey about survey scores being a criterion in closures.
However, here's a subtle twist, the Grande Dame's orifice then edited the draft release, removing the first claim and amending the second to reiterate that ‘employee engagement on its own would never determine an office’s future’.
Aha, a subtle change wouldn't you agree?
However, it doesn't end there.
On 17 May (the week in which the unions’ conferences were discussing boycott motions) the Grande Dame was summoned to the Cabinet Office.
Can you guess what happened next children?
Yes, that's right, the Grande Dame was forced to make another amendment.
"Decisions on office closures are only taken [sic] after exhaustive consideration of a wide range of factors, but People Survey scores are not one of those factors."
Having done her masters' bidding, the Grande Dame was rewarded with an email from the Cabinet Secretary’s office saying that the statement it was ‘a very good note’.
Now that was rather an interesting story wasn't it?
It seems to me that HMRC's political masters can see that things are near breaking point, but that Excom still have their heads firmly buried in the sand.
So, who is really calling the shots now in HMRC, Excom or the Cabinet Orifice?
Tax does have to be taxing.
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