With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) chief executive Lin Homer takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs' round-up series...
How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
It’s been a busy and demanding year for HMRC (as for everyone) and it’s hard to pull out a single challenge. I guess I’d alight on customer service, because my executive team and I know we failed to provide the customer service that taxpayers are entitled to in the first quarter (April – June) of this year. This came about not because we don’t care about customer service, but because we do care. We were implementing some key process and technology changes which will transform the quality of service. But, we had a big wobble as we went through transition; time to handle calls went up and – as often happens in big service delivery organisations – we then let folk down and made work for ourselves. It took really hard work in quarter two to get it back to stability and now, as quarter three closes, we’ve restored “normal service”. In quarter four we’ll start to see sustainable improvements and we’ve learnt some things about transition that will be really important for the future.
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Well, in our Spending Review we got a big investment in our digital transformation and by next year’s CSW Christmas Special many readers will have a digital tax account. Delivering these accounts will be at the heart of next year’s activity.
This work will anchor good and accessible customer service, help us collect more tax and deliver more sustainable efficiencies – what’s not to like! Hopefully, you’ll all have one in your Christmas stockings next year!
What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
As a mother of daughters, I want to watch Suffragette with them over Christmas and remind them that it was 1928 before women got to vote at the same age as men. As for party games, our eldest daughter’s fiancé has taught us a Swedish game – it involves ping pong balls, beer and team spirit. There will be no photographic evidence!
Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016