Posts Tagged ‘consultation’

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Um… hello?

May 10, 2013

efficient secondary legislation and engagement with the public through the medium of consultation is, in my view, the very bedrock of an effective and inclusive parliamentary democracy.  (The Earl of Lytton, Hansard  11 March 2013 Column GC34)

 

Maybe I’ve just lost my google-fu, my ability to find stuff on the internet? I don’t know.  I’ve been busy with the day job (I’m a PhD student by day and a writer of science fiction and fantasy by night) so maybe I’ve taken my eye off the ball.  But it occurred to me lately that, as well as finishing off my responses to the consultation on closure of the HMRC enquiry centres (the consultation closes on 24th May and I’ve already blogged about it here, here and here.  Oh, and here.  Not to mention here.) I should also check out what other tax consultations are around and plan what work I’m going to do on this blog over the next few weeks and months.

Um… hello?

So there doesn’t seem to be a tax tracker on the HMT pages any more.  The Treasury has moved all its consultations over to the new GOV.UK website, and the links on the Treasury site now take you to the consultations search page on GOV.UK, here.

Which might be helpful, except that, at the time of writing, there are 991 documents under the “consultations” heading on that page, they include open consultations, closed consultations, and consultation responses (and there’s no way to filter by “open consultations”).  Oh, and they’re in date order – of the date they were published and not by the date which would actually be useful, ie the date that the consultation closes.  (Has anyone told the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee? (see para 54 here))

Filtering this with “tax and revenue” as the topic brings up five documents, the enquiry centre closure consultation and four closed consultations.

Well OK then.  Filtering it again by department, brings up 87 documents under HMT, only three of which are open consultations. (Two on finance industry topics, the “special administration regime for payment and settlement systems”, and one on “opening up UK payments” which I may go back to, because from a cursory glance it looks to be about abolishing cheques) and – finally – a relevant one, yet another tweak to the REITs regime, the rules on Real Estate Investment Trusts.

Filtering it by department again but this time scrolling down to find HMRC brings up fifteen results.  Only one of those is an open consultation, and it’s our old friend “Supporting Customers Who Need Extra Help: A New Approach”, which is newspeak for “Closing the Enquiry Centres”

But look back at this time last year.  In April and May 2012 I was responding to a dozen open consultations resulting from Budget announcements and pointing out that there were no fewer than 21 formal consultations which were listed on the tracker as being due to open in May.

So where are the 2013 consultations?  Were there no tax changes announced in the 2013 Budget?  (They weren’t all consulted on in a fortnight via twitter while I wasn’t looking, were they???)

The HMRC Budget 2013 page says all consultations will be on the GOV.UK site.

So, um… hello?  Where are they?

 

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In which I am grumpy and middle aged about the government’s ability to manage the consultation process

January 28, 2013

Anything happening?

Have the Treasury updated the tax tracker since December 7th?

Erm… that’d be a “no“.

Has the government decided to follow the advice of the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee and appoint someone like the NAO to undertake an urgent review of their changes to consultation policy?

Erm… that’d be the people who accused them of “sneaking” their consultations out just before long holidays?  Unlikely.

If they DO decide to review the changes, are they planning on meeting the House of Lords suggested deadline of reporting by Easter?

“We believe that the process needs to be reviewed urgently.  We are calling for the review to be done by an independent organisation such as the National Audit Office, and for the outcome of the review to be published by Easter.”

Erm… given it’s practically the end of January now and Easter is in, what, 61 days (and that’s calendar days, not working days) I leave that question for discussion.  Please use one side of the paper only, and be careful to show your workings in full.

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Where’s Wally?

January 21, 2013

OK then, Christmas well and truly over, New Year thoroughly bedded in, off with the onesies and on with the back-to-work trousers; what’s happening in the wonderful world of tax consultations?

Well, erm, I’m not really sure.  The Treasury’s tax tracker page is a mess, with a heading “Tax consultation tracker (2012)” above a link that looks as if it’s going to be a link to the tracker but actually leads to a previous version of the same web page: Tax updates and consultations tracker 2011

The last actual tax tracker I can find is the one published on 7 December last year (here’s the link) and it shows, erm, none.  Well, none that are actually open, that is.

The HMRC “current consultations” page is a bit better – if you can find it, that is (go to the HMRC main page, search for “consultations” and then scroll down till you find the link that says “current consultations” – under the heading “Details of consultations launched since May 2010 can be found in the following sections”.

(There are two, but they both close in March so we’ll come back to them later)

The Treasury site, actually, is a bit easier to navigate if you were coming at it from no knowledge except a desire to see what consultations were out there.  Go to their front page and there’s a link in the sidebar on the left to “consultations and legislation

So nothing much doing, you might think?

Well, erm… you’d be wrong.  Because the according to this Written Ministerial Statement  the entire 2013 Finance Bill is up for technical consultation until February 6th.  Not “is this a good idea” consultation, you understand, just a “does this work the way we think it does, and by the way can you spot any typos we’ve missed” consultation.  Not that anyone who doesn’t take a policy-wonk interest in the Finance Bill consultation is likely to have the proverbial snowflake’s chance of finding it, however!

Speaking of which… did anyone happen to notice the House of Lords’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee issued their report and recommendations after their oral evidence session with Oliver Letwin?  And, oh look at paragraph 11 where they urge the government

to introduce, as soon as possible, a single website listing open consultations in the order in which they close (paragraph 54).

And, oh go on, look at paragraph 54.  Which says

54. Wendy Bradley noted that there is no central source of information on what consultations are scheduled, open or coming to an end: “in the 21st century it should be possible for the government to have a single website listing its open consultations in the order in which they close. This would, for example, enable someone going on holiday for a fortnight to be assured that an issue vital to them wasn’t going to be decided in their absence.” We consider that this would be a significant contribution to improving the overall efficiency of the consultation process, and we urge the Government to introduce such a website as soon as possible. It would also provide a useful to tool to Departments to enable them better to co-ordinate consultations on similar subjects.

[Pause for a quiet rendition of the “told you so” dance]