back to article Gov may need to splash £245m per year on IT contractors – NAO

The government will need to splash £145m per year on 2,000 digital staff - or £244m using contractors - if it is to meet the serious shortfall in skills, according to the National Audit Office. A lack of capability in government is even more pressing as departments face the twin challenge of adopting new digital technologies …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "However, the issue of skills will only be exacerbated as thousands of tech contractors are set to leave the public sector amid a major crackdown on the tax freelancers pay via IR35."

    I haven't been following HMRC's latest wheeze on this but AIUI it will be up to departments in the Civil Service to determine the status of contracts. If so then departments have the solution in their own hands. They can insist on contracts which they can certify as being non-caught. If HMRC insist on doing things differently their loss will be other department's gain.

    1. d3vy Silver badge

      I think their concern is more around liability for making the wrong decision.

      But you are entirely correct they just need to change contracts and working practices and stop treating us like temp employees.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        As an example my favorite.. "we take turns loading the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen at the end of the day.. it's your turn"

        Really? You want to pay me £1 a MINUTE to clean the kitchen?

        I make sure there's a seperate invoice line for ridiculous things to show how much they are paying me for meetings etc.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outsource

    Given the squeeze on contractors by the tax enforcers, surely this will just play into the hands of the big vendors and tech consultancies, and we will just have a repeat of the merry-go-round of badly defined and badly delivered projects.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Outsource

      You miss one thing.

      All the crap code will be developed (sic) in India and fuck the cost saving being passed onto the Government Department.

      Then they will use the T&M part of the contract to charge them twice, a third or even a fourth time to fix the shoddy stuff written in their Indian sweatshops.

      Welcome to the world. I wanna get off.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outsource

      i heard just yesterday of a public sector organisation that probably can't deliver a project without contractors: they had brought in an external "industry consultants" company, which then cherry-picked numbers to prove their own views, and said that 60-70% of original goal can be achieved if they are paid to help. The original team members are still confident 100% of original goal could still be achieved for same cost, if the budget had not been cut and the money spent on the external firm. However, given the appalling treatment of staff at an organisation running scared of IR35 changes, it's probably no longer possible - even if manglement change their minds, they've already spent too much money on the external supplier to be able to deliver the original plan.

  3. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Why not put the NAO in charge of everything from the beginning?

    Instead of just pissing the money away then the NAO saying that actually it was a stupid idea.

    1. Buzzword

      Re: Why not put the NAO in charge of everything from the beginning?

      Because it's easy to point out mistakes in retrospect; much harder to prevent them from being made in the first place.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    GDS Academy?

    GDS currently aims to train at least 3,000 people a year in digital skills in its academy.

    Given that most of their courses are one- or two-day awareness things, I can't see that quite filling the gap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GDS Academy?

      "GDS currently aims to train at least 3,000 people a year in digital skills in its academy."

      Let me guess.

      Rule 1. Ignore accessibility guidelines. Disabled or elderly folks can easily type in their telephone number without the aid of copy and paste. Paste not allowed, spaces not allowed, but don't tell the user that. Simply truncate the field if it's too large.

      Rule 1a. Passwords. See Rule 1.

      Rule 2. It is perfectly acceptable to force users to use a Beta version as long as you tell them it's Beta. Give no pointers whatsoever to a non-beta version.

      Rule 3. Learn our Sign Language. (have a sick bag ready before clicking on that link).

      Rule 4. Rewrite everything using Javasript and MongoDB.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        re:Sign Language

        I'd love to see that working on all the conference calls I have to attend.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: GDS Academy?

        Rule 1b Passwords again. Require a certain number of different types of character but don't tell the user what they are. Also disallow certain characters and don't tell the user about those.

  5. Bogle

    Failure isn't an option - it's mandatory

    Which is more efficient? Failing because you can't afford to start or failing because you can't afford to finish? Either way, we know the outcome will be a fail. I'm hearing the Gershwins' "Let's call the whole thing off"!

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Gordon Pryra

    GDS currently aims to train at least 3,000 people a year in digital skills in its academy

    This should make the contractors worried for their futures.......

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can report, as a contractor at the heart of central government, that HMRC's latest IR35 attack has failed, at least in 2 key departments. We spent this week arguing with HMRC's internal guidance about what "office holder" means. But in the end, they backtracked on making the rules up, falling back on case law, and the vast majority of contractors are safely out of IR35, with a bit of paper from HMRC (from ESS) to prove it now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ooohh, would love to know more.

      I'm starting a contract at a large central govt agency as well. They're actually sensible and know what they want (I know, I know), and how much they have to pay. Its quite well paid as I and they assumed IR35 would be in place when I started. Since neither of us knew, we did a deal on the daily rate which meant I took a bit of a chance and so did they.

      Now if HMRC are doing a reverse ferret I will be a very, very happy man indeed. Can you provide any more information at all?

      Thanks

  9. Hugh Barnard

    Yes, the NIC level for employment without any benefits, sick pay, holiday pay, constant guarantee of work. Add to that completely confusing and (probably) unevenly applied IR35 'rules'. Finally whilst being squeezed and vilified watch Google, Amazon etc. etc. make sweetheart deals and pay very little tax dwarfing any 'loss' from we, the scumbag contractors.

    I'm old and my need for income is pretty minimal, so I'm just not going to work very much now. Let's consider it an example of a self-employed person on work-to-rule. I encourage any others in my position to do the same.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are you really self employed, or are you a salaried employee of your own limited company? If you're a salaried employee of your own limited company, then just pay yourself sick pay and holiday pay from the REVENUE you bill your customers. If you are truly "self employed" then get a decent accountant, or stop whinging. The problem with a lot of contractors is they see their daily rate as income to spend in one go, not REVENUE to run a business - even if it does only have one employee.

      1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

        I ran a Limited Company before I gave up and reverted to permie roles but that was not through choice, it was because of tax rules put out by HMRC around liabilities which meant companies would only deal with other companies and not sole-trader style self employed people. This meant that I had to pay the employee NICs AND the Employer NICs also PAYE and Corporate tax etc etc etc. This meant that my revenue was taking a big hit even before things like accountancy fees and my role in the company meant I had strange exclusions on expenses I could claim such as accommodation whilst on training courses and these exclusions changed year on year.

        I did not play the minimum salary and lots of dividends game as that way lay a deep internal from HMRC but instead paid myself in line with my previous permie rate and when I was sick or on holiday I paid myself enough to cover the critical bills.

        I finally gave up when the HRMC started playing games with 'deemed contract' where they ignored any actual contracts which were in place and made wild assumptions about relationships to give them cause to investigate. All while selling their buildings to a Bermuda based company and leasing them back and other dubious practices.

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "This meant that my revenue was taking a big hit even before things like accountancy fees and my role in the company meant I had strange exclusions on expenses I could claim such as accommodation whilst on training courses and these exclusions changed year on year."

    I never experienced that as a freelancer. When I was a Civil Servant years previously the exclusions seemed to change from expenses claim to expenses claim. It was part of the mean-spiritedness that prompted me to leave. No, folks, Civil Service jobs are not gold-plated, at least not in the scientific branch. Neither are the pensions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The 'Does not include Company Directors' clause

      It used to be that you as the MD of a company could not claim ANY benefits if you made yourself redundant and closed your company down.

      My local Jobcentre Nazis would gleefully tell me that when I tried to get JSA in the periods when there was no work at all on the horizon.

      So you pay yourself above the minimum wage and hold the rest for the times when you are not on a contract. Good you think? Not a chance. You still get clobbered by the HMRC as being inside IR35. You just can't win. It is little wonder I threw in the towel and went permie.

      HMRC only want to busineses to deal with the likes of Crapita, TCS and the rest. We are just a thorn in their side.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The 'Does not include Company Directors' clause

        "It used to be that you as the MD of a company could not claim ANY benefits if you made yourself redundant and closed your company down.

        My local Jobcentre Nazis would gleefully tell me that when I tried to get JSA in the periods when there was no work at all on the horizon."

        This gets to the heart of the problem. Public sector employees do not seem able to comprehend the idea that companies don't have bottomless pits of money.

        Neither do they understand the concept of customers not paying on time.

  11. Jess

    The elephant in the room - Brexit

    If they are hellbent on doing a hard brexit, as the rhetoric would imply, this makes things even more interesting.

    The Techxodus will keep a lot of contractors busy, but during the same two years, new government systems will be essential for the new situation.

    The low pound and the short term nature of their right to stay will put off EU contractors. And after the actual exit, if the EU makes it easy for UK techies to work in the EU, or the destination of the Techxodus is Eire, then it is possible that the reduced need for tech will be offset by a loss of bodies abroad.

  12. creepy gecko
    Coat

    I see that they've had to bring in Amyas Morse to join up the dots.

    I'll get my coat...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Coat

      "Amyas Morse"

      Younger brother of Endeavour?

      Mines the one with a crossword dictionary in the pocket.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    "A lack of capability in government..."

    And that starts at the very top.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Karma's a bitch ain't it?

    "digital technologies", oh please, as opposed to analogue?

    They need to put down their crack pipes, cancel the stupid, and buy toilet paper.

    Maybe get an Andrex Dash button each.

    I have absolutely no sympathy at all. Fuck them all.

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