VSJ – December 2006 – Work in Progress

Robin Jones reports on a new development for the IAP’s influence on Government.

The IAP takes every opportunity to represent its members’ interests in the Corridors of Power. For example, Council members regularly attend PITCOM (Parliamentary IT Committee) meetings and, when there is space, report on them here. (See, for instance, Paul Lynham’s piece on ‘Joining up Criminal Justice IT’ in VSJ for October 2004). We always respond to invitations to address the nation’s lawmakers and readers with long memories may recall my report on a ‘Freshers’ Fair’ for new MPs after the 2001 general election (VSJ September 2001). And, of course, we lobby Government on issues likely to affect the membership, such as IR35.

However, devotees of ‘Yes Minister’ will be aware that influencing the thinking of politicians is only half the battle. It’s civil servants who implement ministers’ ideas and any disparity between concept and implementation may alter the effect of legislation significantly. Now I think of it, IR35 is an excellent example of this. It was targeted at very high earners who were considered to be avoiding tax by declaring themselves to be self-employed (or, more precisely, to be employees of a service company that they owned) when they were, to all intents and purposes, conventional employees. It dragged in large numbers of people who weren’t high earners and who were genuinely self-employed. That was a fault of the implementation, not the concept. As my accountant observed at the time, a simple way to avoid netting the innocent would have been to introduce a de minimis value of turnover, below which IR35 didn’t apply, just as is the case with VAT. But such a proposal would have to have been presented to a civil servant…

Now, we’ve been presented with an exciting opportunity to do just that. Dods (www.dods.co.uk) is a publishing company that has specialised in political and Westminster-based magazines and reports for over 170 years. It says of itself, “Dods is the natural partner for Government, policy makers and policy influencers to consult, inform, understand and communicate effectively with the public affairs and policy making community and for organisations to directly liaise with and impact upon Government”. For the past six years, it has also run several Web sites, such as www.epolitix.com. This is a political magazine that also provides a portal to MPs’ Web sites. Dods has just launched a new Web site aimed at the Civil Service. Among other things it will provide a platform for professional bodies to address their concerns and proposals to civil servants directly. Naturally, we’ve grabbed this opportunity with both hands. But to do an effective job, we need to be able to respond to issues that arise quickly and precisely. Obviously we can’t canvass the entire membership on each topic as it occurs, so we’ve put together a panel of IAP Fellows with wide experience to act as a repository of knowledge and opinion. They’re listed below, together with brief summaries of their experience. But this isn’t an exhaustive list. If you feel you could contribute to the panel’s work, contact Mike Ryan (dg@iap.org.uk or 0208 567 2118). Also, if you don’t want to be on the Panel but you’d like to air your view about any current topic, write to me (eo@iap.org.uk). We can only represent you if we know what you’re thinking!

As things stand at the time of writing, the panel is:

David Crichton, BSc, FIAP has been developing, designing and maintaining application and utility software for over 40 years, first with Plessey then IBM and finally Amdahl. For the last 15 years he has specialised in Amdahl’s (now Tibco’s) ObjectStar™ RAD and Integration offering, since 1994 as an Independent Field Consultant. He has also been an active member of the Liberals/Liberal Democrats since 1964. His professional background has made him highly critical of Government IT policy, both in its continuing failure to manage major projects effectively and to persist in using software companies that have demonstrated their inability to deliver. His political background has made him equally critical of attempts to develop massive integrated databases reliant on highly inaccurate personal data.

David Dewar, FIAP, FMCM, FASC, MBCS, has been working in IT for some 32 years, 20 of them as a freelance MVS or VM systems programmer. Latterly he has been employed for some years by one of the major global IT services companies, where in addition to his main role, he is also active in university relations, and in encouragement of technical innovation and leadership within the company. He is also a professional musician, and relaxes by flying light aircraft – when time permits.

Robin Evans, BA, MA, MSc, CEng, FIAP, MBCS, CMath, FIMA is a highly qualified professional information technologist and mathematician with wide experience throughout the IT system development process. Over 37 years, he has garnered skills in a huge range of hardware, operating systems, programming languages and databases. He is also a specialist in the use of computer graphics for mathematical, geographic and scientific visualisation. In his spare time, Robin is active in his village, helping to set up a community shop and acting as churchwarden. He’s also a BCS and A-level examiner.

Hugh Kearns, FIAP, MBCS, CITP, MBCI, MIEEE is a professional information technologist with a distinguished career spanning more than 35 years of technical innovation and creativity in the financial sector of the City of London and the main financial and trading capitals of the world. He was a leading member of the team that developed and launched the first online interactive financial data research system, Datastream, in the City and was instrumental in Datastream’s global expansion from the early 70s. Hugh was on the initial government and private sector sponsored task force that led to the establishment of Action2000 to address Millennium changeover issues. Since the late 90s he has headed a London strategic consulting house specialising in systems troubleshooting, IT and business risk analysis, systems design and Web-based business applications. He also assists a number of UK-based technology sector companies with their strategic futures.

Mike Peat, MA, FIAP, MIOD is founder and CEO of Unicorn Financial Solutions Ltd, whose core business is the maintenance and enhancement of an Investment Administration Service system that Mike originally wrote for stockbrokers Carr Sheppards Crosthwaite about 15 years ago. Targeted first at the management of PEPs, the CSC IAS now handles numerous types of investment portfolio and forms the core of a £5m p.a. business. Mike has wide experience of current operating systems and languages. He speaks regularly at international software conferences and seminars in Europe and the US.

[Interesting project or development? Let us know at eo@iap.org.uk!]

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