Tag Archive | "Immigration"

New immigration laws for landlords threaten contractor investment

Becoming a buy-to-let landlord has long been a way for contractors to invest in their future. Relatively hassle free, they can get on with their own business whilst the rent rolls in from their property venture to top up their pension/earnings.

All that could be about to change following Mr Cameron’s announcement of a new mandatory license for private landlords last week.

It’s not only contractors who’ve bought buy-to-let properties who’ll have reservations. The NLA has already voiced its concerns about such a licensing scheme.

So why introduce new legislation and what’s to be gained?

It’s no secret: some landlords shirk their responsibilities. Recent TV images of people trapped by circumstance living in squalid conditions is enough to justify a register on its own.

But that’s not the real target of Mr Cameron’s new initiative. He dropped the bomb about a landlord’s registrar during his speech on government plans to control immigration.

It’s the toughest speech on immigration in many people’s living memory. Making landlords accountable for their tenants’ right to be in the UK is only a part of the overall strategy.

Automatic evictions are one possible avenue the registrar’s proposers are investigating. The moment an immigrant’s visa runs out, their tenancy agreement would end too. Then if the tenant doesn’t want to leave, the landlord will have the power to evict them.

Should an immigrant wish to appeal, they’ll face a ‘deport first; appeal later’ ethos, which is set to roll out across the whole of government.

Landlords who “cram houses full of illegal immigrants” will also be on the radar. The punishment for those found to be housing illegals, working for little or no money, was not revealed in the speech.

All those critters? We’re not sold.

On paper, this sounds like a plan. But the main concern of Richard Lambert, NLA CEO, is Westminster failing to give local councils the resources to execute their potential powers.

The fact is, councils could tackle many of the issues that Mr Cameron raised to some degree under existing law. The problem is resources, or a lack thereof, in local council budget. This applies to both uncovering illegal immigrants and bringing unscrupulous landlords to justice.

Mr Lambert would rather see existing powers enforced without councils having to go “cap in to the Treasury” than reams of new legislation destined for the same bottleneck.

The NLA chief concluded that the existing Right to Rent scheme – or any further measures new laws make statute – shouldn’t absolve the government of responsibility for immigration.

Should contractors be responsible for ousting tenants?

Yes, landlords can do so much. But it’s ultimately the government that the electorate put their faith in to tackle immigration, not landlords.

The vast majority of contractors who’ve invested in buy-to-let to shore up their reduced retirement funds never signed up to fight the government’s battles.

The extent of any laws passed (following consultation) will determine whether private landlords continue to provide the service they do currently. Without them providing roofs over tenants’ heads, local councils would face a housing nightmare on a daily basis. Let’s hope the government decides not to bite any more fingers off the hand that feeds it.

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Who said we need to import skills to ensure success…?

I was somewhat taken aback this week to read that someone in government had had a fit of the vapours and said something sensible. Even more confusing was that this was from the Labour side of the House. Although, just to restore my faith in human nature, he’s been shouted down by the rest of his side.

This was Lord Glassman, who has said that we need to put a freeze on immigration. Not a cap or a phased reduction, but a total stop, with the sole exception of the small number of skilled people we actually need to encourage to come over.

Of course none of this would be an issue if we had a better history of controlling who’s coming in, but we are where we are. At least we have some much more effective rules in place to bring a bit of sanity to the ICT system these days, which is the bit that really concerns us IT people. And for which, let us not forget, we owe a debt to the work the PCG has been doing over the years.

But as usual, nothing is as it seems.

There’s a bit of a debate going on about the new rules, centring of all stupid things on payable expenses, that well known fiddle factor beloved of the umbrella companies and assorted MPs…

But I digress. The rules set a minimum salary for the ICT candidate. However, with the usual stunning clarity of purpose, they haven’t actually defined how that salary should be made up. So you can include, for example, the costs of bringing your worker over here and giving them somewhere to live while they’re here.

Then we get into the Kafkaesque realms of do we include expenses paid for travel and accommodation while working somewhere else? I mean, let’s just think about that for a moment. You ship someone into the country, pay for their accommodation and give them a living wage. Then they have to go somewhere else on your behalf, for which you are paying the bills (or damned well ought to be). So how can that be part of their gross salary? Because I’m willing to bet that they never see any of it; if they did, their payslips wouldn’t be subject to the same level of secrecy as those nice people at GCHQ.

And just to pile on the ineptitude, the rules are being arranged so that “the taxpayer is not disadvantaged”. Excuse me? Taxpayer? The taxpayer, to the man on the Clapham omnibus, is someone who has a life here, a permanent address, is known to the gentlemen at HMRC. He’s not just popped over to perform a limited engagement (much of which seems to be to learn how to do the job so he can take those skills back home). And since his prime purpose is to take away work that could be done by someone who does live here, I’m afraid I’m not all that minded to be fair in how he gets paid.

Other countries have twigged this. Canada, for one, is taking positive action. How typical of our team that we try to treat them fairly and actively assist them in their efforts, less we tread on someone’s toes.

Talking of treading on toes, let’s give a small Hurrah for the PCG. Actually no, let’s make that a very large one. They have won not one but two trade awards, for electronic communication and membership success, against some much bigger (and older) organisations. Bearing in mind this is a very small team, the impact their work is having where it matters is out of all proportion.

Who said we need to import skills to ensure success…?

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

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It’s time we started pushing our own agenda rather than everybody else’s

Sometimes you really do have to ask yourself if you really understand what’s going on in some people’s minds. And just how much the people in charge of some fairly major institutions really understand the impact of their decisions.

Firstly DVLA, that government outpost at the far end of the M4 whose desirability as a posting is apparently only exceeded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. They have just awarded a £100m contract for a new Vehicle Excise Duty system to Capita. That is not an issue in itself, of course, but Capita re one of those who use a lot on non-EU resources to deliver their projects to keep their costs down. All well and good, but this is our money they’re spending, and even my shaky grasp of macro-economics says that it must be better to spend it within the UK if we are to grow the UK economy.

This also flies in the face of a recent survey by SOCITM, looking at the long term costs of outsourced projects, that shows that “when comparing the costs for any service, most elements will be more expensive if outsourced.” Which is something some of us uninformed IT professionals have been saying for years; framing a deal that delivers a genuine saving over a long term is very difficult indeed. Quality invariably suffers, and the savings are rarely delivered.

But hey, it looks good on the balance sheet, and who cares about what happens in ten years, it’s this year’s budget we have to worry about.

The other undesirable monolithic institution making worrying noises is the Scottish Parliament. Their beloved leader Me Salmond, (aka “Wee ‘Eck”, although my own epithet would be rather more punchy) recently came up with the slightly deranged idea that he wants to allow unlimited immigration into Scotland to overcome the lack of skilled workers.

Luckily the immediate response from the real Government down in London was fairly unequivocal. They didn’t quite say “Don’t be such a blathering fool” but they got about as close as you can get in politician-speak. Although one possible outcome should Salmond succeed in his plan would be border posts between Scotland and England. Now there’s an idea.

But I digress. The key point is that neither of the above examples takes any notice at all of the long-term health of the country. DVLA presumably tendered for a solution to the problem of marrying tax discs and insurance policies – on the face of it a trivial IT exercise, but I don’t know the detail and it may well be vastly more complicated to do. But that doesn’t mean that whoever came up with the solution is the best supplier to implement it. HMG keeps saying that it wants 25% of procurement to go to UK SMEs, and the DVLA seems not to be interested in that approach.

As for Salmond, we can allow for the fact that he’s a politician and hence only interested in next week, but if his country hasn’t got enough skilled workers, how about training the ones you have rather than shutting them off from any opportunities for all time by importing a new workforce over their heads? I suspect he could find a lot of people willing to work for £24,000 a year hiding in the highlands if he looked.

It really is time we started pushing our own agenda rather than everybody else’s.

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited

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Four words that seem to have passed by St Vince of Cable

I see St Vince of Cable is back in the news, challenging Mr Cameron’s views on immigration. What a shame that he is continuing to confuse two entirely different issues, which is most unlike a Liberal Democrat.

I offer no comment on immigration in general. I tend to side with the Cameronian view that controlled immigration is a good thing while uncontrolled immigration is not, but that’s as far as I go on that subject.

However, the importing of foreign labour to do jobs that used to be done by UK workers? That, I’m afraid, is a different issue entirely.

Sadly it is a distinction that Cable seems determined not to make. He remains wedded to the view that UK PLC is in such dire straits that it absolutely has to import a range of technical and engineering workers to maintain its position in the world economy. Furthermore he is supporting this contention by pointing out that it allows us access to markets that would otherwise be closed to our industries. This has a degree of merit, if you allow that we have something that market wants to buy.

But it is interesting to note that I don’t see a great influx of Chinese workers on ICTs coming in to the country to do a range of fairly low level technical jobs. After all, China has a rapidly growing economy and probably the biggest untapped market anywhere in the world. And we seem to be pretty good at selling into it, without reciprocal trade deals – at least, none that I’ve seen reported. I could be wrong but I also don’t see us paying for China’s growing nuclear industry, nor its education system.

Funny that, isn’t it?

It doesn’t help that the people charged with supervising the new ICT rules on salary banding and the like don’t seem to have much of a clue what’s going on either. The transcript of a discussion at the Public Accounts Select Committee makes for depressing reading. Not that they aren’t concerned about the issue, they clearly are, but that they are so vague about the rules themselves and vague about how compliance is going to be measured. At one point they are saying that the number of request for salary information to enforce the rules is too high for the system to cope. In other words, the rules are in place but there’s no effective way to apply them. They are even rather vague about the local resident working test, which is intended to stop an existing worker being booted out by an incoming ICT one.

And Cable and friends still fail to grasp the fundamental point here. If we give all the entry-level jobs away, how are those 20,000 IT graduates, to take one example, ever going to get their first step into their chosen career? And in a few more years’ time, where will we find the middle managers and technical experts who actually get this somewhat overrated ICT workforce to deliver to the required standard?

This is something that needs decisive and effective action. Four words that seem to have passed by the honourable Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills without leaving a visible imprint.

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited

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Will new visa stop skilled accountants for contractors coming to the UK?

John Hayes, from the law firm Irwin Mitchell, has suggested that UK employers may find it more difficult to attract top talent once the government’s cap on Tier 1 migrant workers comes into force.

The immigration minister, Damian Green, announced earlier this month that a new points based system for Tier 1 visas will come into operation on April 6th. 1,000 visas will be made available to exceptionally talented migrant workers in the fields of art, science and humanities. People who are awarded the visas will be allowed to stay in the UK for a period of three years and four months and will be given the option to apply for an extension to remain for an additional two years. After five years in the UK, the visa holder would be entitled to settle here.

Employers are already predicting that the 1,000 cap will cause practical problems, Hayes said. Although we do not know the full details of how these new visas will work, we do know that an accredited competent organisation will have to endorse that an applicant possesses an exceptional skill. Furthermore, people who obtain these exceptional skill visas will be exempt from the maintenance and English language restrictions, which will make them more attractive.

Any foreign nationals who are currently in the UK on a skilled worker visa and want to change to a highly skilled visa should be aware that the deadline for applications is April the 5th.

The new regulations could encourage more transatlantic start-ups to set up in the UK. People coming to Britain from non-EU countries will be granted faster settlement rights if are investing in excess of £5 million in a British based enterprise.

In April, the government is introducing a new visitor visa for prospective entrepreneurs. This will allow them to come to the UK in order to secure funding and start up their venture in advance of obtaining the full tier 1 visa.

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So near and yet, so far

That was the immediate reaction to Theresa May’s pronouncement on how the Coalition will be handling work visas as part of its attempts to reduce immigration: a fair start but not nearly limiting enough. While it was good to see positive efforts to reduce the influx of non-EU workers, there was a sense of disappointment that the ICT visas, about which there has been so much debate, would not be included in the capped total.

Why this should be so is mostly down to two factors. Firstly the somewhat misguided belief of some Coalition members, apparently led by St Vince of Cable, that British business would flounder in a sea of amateurishness if we didn’t keep importing these vital skills from overseas in unlimited numbers. Well I’m sorry, St Vince, but I’ve worked with quite a few of these incoming experts and while the odd one or two are very good indeed, the average is rather closer to the other definition of “expert”; “ex” as in “has been” and “spurt” as in “drip under pressure”.

Joking aside (OK, it wasn’t much of a joke, I admit…), it is nevertheless a valid point. ICTs are for moving highly skilled experts around or for putting experts and trainees together. It seems a little perverse that the bulk of the ICT traffic seems to be bringing in the trainees rather than exporting the trainers.

The second pressure was from big business. Some very big businesses in fact, although oddly enough they aren’t primarily UK companies. UK businesses were involved of course, although reading between the lines a little it is horribly evident that the UK companies had a genuine fear that they would lose their ability to move modest numbers of staff freely in and out of Britain while the other guys, the predominantly non-UK ones, were clearly more worried about their bottom line. Although you have to ask exactly why non-UK companies think they should be able to redirect UK’s government policy in the first place.

Anyway, the deal has been struck, ICTs are not being capped. Gloom and despondency among the UK freelance workforce, joy unbounded from UK PLC (or should that be Elsewhere PLC?).

But wait. There is a glimmer in the gloom.

If you want an ICT visa and to be here more than a year, you have to be earning at least £40k per annum in real salary. Given the supposed qualities of the average ICT that is a not unreasonable figure for most companies.

Aim to stay less than a year and it falls to £25k. Which is a laughably low for a talented individual, of course, but still significant; many ICTs being body-shopped in the UK workforce are allegedly paid rather less than that already. But that one year cap makes all the difference. It blows a big hole in the budgeting, which has been designed to recover immigration expenses over two or three years.

The reactions to this from the big boys have been interesting. Briefly, they really do not like it. Which means basically we got it right. Shame…

And one quote is, I think, particularly revealing. One company is reported as saying that it will be difficult to pay different salaries to people depending on if they are staying more or less than a year. Well it shouldn’t anyway (perhaps they need a better IT system…), but surely you are paying these people a wage in their home location, aren’t you? Why do you want to pay them anything different for a temporary gig elsewhere?

So while at first glance it was less than we wanted, it’s actually a pretty damned good compromise. The guys who put this together were largely reacting to some solid, very high quality work by the PCG team who should be congratulated for a job very well done. That an organisation representing some 20,000 freelance members can persuade the Coalition to go against the wishes some multti-billion pound corporates is an astonishing achievement.

In fact the title of this blog is all wrong. It should have been “Nemo me impune lacessit”. Which, as I’m sure you all know, translates as “Don’t mess with me, Jimmy”.

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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Makes you laugh, doesn’t it?

Do you ever get the feeling you don’t really understand what’s going on? Reading the news over the last week, I kept getting this horrible feeling that I was in an episode of Reggie Perrin.

Perhaps I’m working too hard, but if we’re trying to save as much money from the public purse as we can, why are we promising to give everyone the maximum pension possible? Why is the Mayor of London up in arms about ethnic cleansing in Streatham? And why will I have to take money out of my company to provide a pension fund for my staff – of whom there is precisely one – when the money that I deliberately leave in the company is meant to be to help fund my pension…?

The world really has gone slightly mad.

There have been flashes of sanity though. The Institute of Directors has written to the new Office of Tax Simplification pointing out that there is a tax measure they really need to look at. One that causes great confusion, that is counter-productive and actually costs money to implement since almost all attempts to charge it result in failure. You might have heard of it; it’s called IR35

Errm, hullo, IOD? Aren’t you about 10 years late? Some of us – about 20,000 to be precise – have been beating that drum for quite a long time. Now, finally, it’s on the agenda for reassessment and, dare we hope, possible abolition, and the IOD have realised it’s a bad thing. Keep up at the back, chaps.

Actually what I thought was quite amusing was that they used the same arguments and most of the same statistics that PCG have been generating over the years. So perhaps there was a grain of truth in what we’ve been saying all along.

We’ve also been saying things about abuse of the visa system and the importing of non-EU workers to undercut the local variety, many of whom are now out of work. So it was with a degree of amusement that I read a survey has shown that a quarter of Tier 1 visa holders are working in non-skilled jobs.

Say what? Tier 1 are the people who can stand on their own two feet, who will make a positive contribution to the country and who, after two years, are supposed to be earning at least £35k a year to keep the visa. Granted people can work for whoever they want, at whatever they want, but if being a supermarket cashier is the height of your ambition, you really do have to wonder why they came in the first place.

I also read that someone in government has had a bit of an inspiration. When discussing the proposed cap on immigration and its reputedly monstrous impact on some companies’ ability to bring in staff, it was suggested that perhaps using up the ones they had applied for might be a way out of their dilemma.

And I’m sorry, but I still refuse to take St Vincent of Cable seriously.

Still, some things brought a smile to these grumpy old lips. The better than expected growth figures and the retention of our AAA rating prove that some think we’re going about things the right way. The Coalition’s spending review contained a lot of solid common sense, something politics has been lacking for quite a while (about 13 years, to be precise) although I still don’t quite get that thing about non-aircraft carriers. And I loved Osborne’s parting shot when announcing the programme, that the total cuts added up to 19% of government spending, which is precisely one percent less than the 20% that Labour had said was the most we could afford and what they would have done had they been in power.

So a confusing week in some ways, but not a bad one, all things considered.

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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Who needs an IT industry anyway?

I’ve written before about the confusion in the debate about immigration and the constant refusal of government and the press to separate genuine immigration from abuse of the system, especially the misuse of the ICT programme. That debate has been raging for a while now and remains unresolved, although we did think we might be getting the message across.

Then, all of a sudden it seems we have a major triumph. We, via our fiends (sic) in Brussels, have just signed a trade agreement with India. Nothing much wrong in that by itself, we need to trade and India is a growing economy. But look a little deeper…

In exchange for India relaxing its import rules so the EU can sell into that market, we have apparently agreed to give their engineers, IT workers, project managers and other skilled trades virtually unlimited access to our market. OK, so it’s a free world and we all have to get work where we can at the best rate we can. But given that India’s official language is English, and there aren’t that many English-speaking countries in the EU – even if you count Scotland – I somehow get the feeling that the traffic in this direction will be rather heavily biased in our direction.

Again, not a problem, except that, as with the ICT scam, these aren’t likely to be long-term immigrants. Some will no doubt be here for a long time, and some will genuinely contribute to the UK economy. But I have a nagging feeling that an awful lot of them will be here to learn how to do the job we’re doing for ourselves and then move it back home where the labour rates are considerably cheaper. That might cut the bottom line but it is a horribly short-term view of things. It won’t take too long before all the real work in IT, for example, is offshored and our service economy – once one of the world’s strongest – has gone the way of the Dodo.

So if this is good news, I would really hate to see a tragedy.

And what really annoys me is that one part of Government is talking about limiting immigration, another part is making positive noises about ICT use and abuse while another part is selling us down the river. Well thanks, guys, great job.

And let’s be clear here. I have absolutely no problem with India or the Indians and never have done. I have no objection to skilled people coming into the country and benefiting us as a whole. I don’t even have a problem with the ICT system, which allows the simple transfer of key staff for shot term purposes.

But I do have a problem with our government doing all they can to close down the industry I’ve been working in for the last 35 years.

Someone has got this badly wrong. And I don’t think it’s me…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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Going up…

A while ago I wrote in another blog about a potential problem with the IT industry in the UK, where the bottom of the career ladder was being rapidly pulled up by the continuing off-shoring of UK jobs. At the time I was just speculating out loud, but some recent numbers have made me think.

For one thing, IT graduates have the highest unemployment rate of all, at around 17%. OK, so IT is notorious at preferring experience to paper qualifications at the best of times, but this is an extraordinary figure when you consider just how much IT work is out there, even in these straitened times.

So where are the IT jobs going then, if not to the UK workforce?

If you look at the numbers of ICTs being granted you might get a bit of a clue. A recent set of figures from the Government gives a very disturbing picture. For most occupations (and the list ranges from medical practitioners to magicians), the trend is actually fairly level; for example, 80 ICTs for electrical engineers in 2000, 95 in 2008. Hardly an issue.

But look at the IT trades – programmers from 290 to 875, Business Analysts up from 255 to 1050, Project Managers from 290 to 1450. The figures stop at 2008, when the rules were changed, but the trend continues upwards: recent figures from the Home Office show a 67% rise between Q1 2009 and Q1 2010.

I agree you have to take these numbers with a bit of a pinch of salt. For instance the 2009 to 2010 increase is for applications, not ICTs actually granted. Even so, it’s clear that the tend is ever upward. What’s more, it doesn’t take long to find job adverts for IT roles at rates that are well under any kind of market value. Say it quietly, but surely people are not advertising roles nobody would take on just to prove they can’t recruit anyone so please can we have an ICT instead? Plus, just to rub some of that salt into the wound, the offshore companies are taking on UK workers as part of an outsourcing deal and then making them redundant at a fair old rate because the work is now being done “elsewhere”.

And what really annoys me is the abuse of ICTs in the first place. These are meant to be used to transfer skilled people for specific roles within a multinational organisation. My experience of some of these workers – and perhaps I’ve just been particularly unlucky, although I rather doubt it – would not lead me to believe these are highly skilled experts in their field. Quite the opposite, in fact.

There is some light, of course. The Migration Advisory Committee is keeping a close eye on such things, and you can’t have failed to notice the debates about immigration and work visas, although this is being coloured by some very powerful companies insisting – against all rational evidence – that they absolutely have to being in people because they can’t find anyone suitable over here already. Well, apart from the 17% of IT graduates and the several thousand people on the bench since their old job got rolled offshore that is.

So as I said originally, the bottom of the career ladder is being pulled up. Which means in about another five years, we won’t have an IT industry and we can all stop worrying about it.

Just for once, I rather hope I’m wrong…

Alan Watts can found at LinkedIn.
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The Not-so-Silly Season?

Traditionally this is the Silly Season, when the Press have to file stories about singing sheep to fill the papers since there is no real news to talk about. But actually there are not one but two interesting stories to ponder this week, one illustrating how very confused the whole immigration argument has become and the other illustrating just how out of touch with reality the Senior Civil Service seems to be.

Firstly, immigration. A large delegation of politicos, business leaders and sports stars (why sports stars?) led by Mr Cameron has been dispatched to boost our trade with India. Given that they are a tiger economy in their own right, this is probably a good move. Snag is, the Indians and Vince Cable have been talking about opening up the barriers to immigration while everyone else is talking about closing them. Remind me, what is the definition of “Coalition”?

Still, Mr Cable is actually correct; bless him; the ability to allow highly skilled workers in to the country to fill necessary gaps in our native skills is a good thing, not least because we have signed reciprocal treaties that mean we have to do so. Sadly this has got wrapped up with the whole net immigration argument which in turn has evolved from the last government’s unofficial but very real open door policy. We do actually need these skilled people, be they heart surgeons or chefs who understand Thai cuisine. Provided they pay their way and add some value to the UK economy, what’s the problem?

However, before we get all optimistic about them, how about the government looks at abuses of the system first? There isn’t a skills shortage in IT; we have 40,000 IT graduates out of work and hundreds of good applicants for almost every role. Why then, do we allow IT staff to come in on Intra-Company Transfers in their thousands to learn how to do our jobs so they can export them back home?

This is an entirely different issue to the one about net immigration. It would be nice if HMG and the Press could get that difference clear so we can have a reasoned argument about it…
The other interesting story is that the current IT Director for HMRC, a certain Mr Singh, is finishing his three year fixed term contract but staying in post as a freelance through his own shiny new limited company. Instant cries of “Foul” and “Why isn’t he being done under IR35?” arose. Unfairly perhaps, since he hasn’t yet had to fill in a tax form so his position under IR35 is unknown. OK, he’s a classic IR35-caught candidate, and I can’t believe HMRC would let him get away with anything, but he hasn’t done anything wrong yet.

Or has he?

The point of a Fixed Term Contract is that it has a definitive, pre-agreed end date: the clue is in the name. So why, after three years, is there not a suitable replacement lined up ready to go, either from the open market or by promotion from within? Is there really only one person suitable in the whole of the UK? Surely not…

But there’s even more to this debacle…

They are paying Mr Singh as a freelance a day rate equal to around four times his previous salary. HMRC mandarins claim this is to achieve parity with an equivalent Deloitte consultant. Fine, except Mr Singh doesn’t work for Deloitte and so doesn’t have to support myriad partners and office buildings. Nor a sales and marketing team, apparently. So while it‘s good that HMRC accept that freelance workers have greater overheads than employees, something we’ve been arguing about for at least ten years, a little bit of market perspective wouldn’t go amiss. Especially when it’s our money they’re spending.

You could also argue that Mr Singh, having failed to identify a suitable replacement, has significantly failed one of his key duties. After all, had he gone under a bus, clearly there is nobody in the organisation, or outside it, ready to take over. So much for continuity planning then.

We could also query the proper application of the OGC tendering rules for new staff and various other inconsistencies, but let’s not Labour the point more than necessary.
In May I was hopeful that our shiny new Coalition had a clear idea of where they were going and why. I confess I am beginning to have my doubts.

Alan Watts can found found at LinkedIn.
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