The real truth behind Whitehall’s PSC crackdown
The government and Whitehall mandarins should hang their heads in shame for having developed and nurtured a culture of duplicity that has benefited the very, very few, writes John Brazier, managing director of the PCG, the UK’s largest organisation representing freelance contractors.
We have always been robust in our condemnation of disguised employment and tax evasion, but now we have turned up the heat on government and public sector bosses, by telling them:
‘Don’t look around to find people to blame in this Whitehall farce; look in the mirror and see the guilty people that have let the taxpayer down.’
Our message comes in response to a revelation by Danny Alexander, in his House of Commons statement this week, that the public sector has allowed and encouraged senior management to sit in high-ranking positions for over a decade while posing as ‘off-payroll’ contractors. This casts a slur on the thousands of honest freelancers who offer both the public and private sector their flexibility and skills.
In other words, we believe the danger of this debate is that we stigmatise honest freelance businesses and in doing so, allow those responsible to move forward without making the crucial changes required to ensure this does not happen again.
PCG has always called for honesty and transparency and has worked with the Treasury to achieve clear and easy to follow guidelines for the use of freelancers. Many public sector departments rely on them to provide specialist expertise when and where they are needed. They are paid a competitive rate but these freelancers are not provided with pensions, holiday pay, or redundancy rights. The tap can be turned on when their flow of expertise is needed and turned off when their skills are no longer needed, in the same way any supplier or partner would be used.
It follows that the suggestion freelance businesses that move from contract to contract are avoiding or worse, evading tax is insulting. It would seem to be a case of political expediency, or civil service cynicism targeting these businesses, when the true perpetrators in this offense against taxpayers can be found right in the middle of Whitehall.
Ultimately, if the public sector departments used these businesses correctly and wisely, freelancers would not be faced with a situation where they are forced out of a legitimate and mutually beneficial way of working through no fault of their own.
PCG are now calling on the government to take responsibility for the mess they have caused, stop blaming freelance businesses and take action to promote the proper use of this flexible solution within the public sector and beyond.