PCG policy adviser Celia Surtees has welcomed a new report from the Policy Exchange thinktank setting out proposals for helping central government to improve its efficiency by harnessing emerging new technologies; however, she also takes issue with it for failing to recognise the key role the UK’s professional contracting community can play in such a project.
The report, entitled Better, Faster, Stronger: Remaking Government for the Digital Age, supports the increased use of private secondments to help enhance the IT skills of permanent civil servants. It also recommends that senior civil servants should have access to more fixed tenure appointments so that they gain a broader range of experience.
It omits to recommend, however, the benefits of drawing from the pool of expert talent existing in Umbrella Companies and the country’s professional contracting community more broadly. Ms Surtees writes: “Here are workers who come with a wide range of experience and technical know-how gained across the private and public sector. The nature of their work also means that they are rarely in position long enough to grow stale and they always bring unique experience to the next area that they work in.”
Instead of embracing this talent, the government appears to be “making it difficult for contractors who want to work in the public sector”, Ms Surtees continues, largely as a result of the recent rules on off-payroll workers in the public sector announced by the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.
The new rules have dissuaded many contractors from public sector work, Ms Surtees argues, even though research from Cranfield University’s Professor Andrew Burke confirms that private sector firms overwhelmingly believe that freelancers add value to their businesses.