Get IT freelancers in for 2018, public bodies told

A leading IT market analysis firm believes the UK public sector will need to make greater use of freelance consultants in 2018, if it is to successfully address its digital skills shortage.

In fact, taxpayer-funded bodies will “need to consider more creative ways” to get the skills they need, “including the use of public freelance marketplaces”, says TechMarketView.

“In 2018,” elaborated the firm, “public sector organisations will not find it easy to operate efficiently and effectively without looking beyond their own four walls.”

The recommendation follows an update in April last year to IR35 and the associated ‘off-payroll rules,’ which is now widely seen as actively deterring freelancers from the sector.

‘Fled in droves’

Mike Gibson, a campaigner against IR35, made this point to the business department when it unveiled a new strategy on IT provision to its staff, “and the people and businesses we serve.”

In response to the 19-page strategy, published last month, Gibson told BEIS officials: “Beautifully written and composed, professionally created and ultimately pointless.

“Delivery will be dependent on a veritable army of flexible and temporary resource -- who have fled the UK Public Sector in their droves as a result of IR35 changes in April 2017.”

Two options

The campaigner believes that for the department to achieve its goal -- ‘to make the best use of digital, data and technology (DDaT) in our everyday work’ -- one of two things must happen.

The business department either must pay all PSC contractors with the relevant skills 22% more -- to take account of the increased tax take that the April IR35 reforms can impose.

Or, Gibson explained, the government must accept that the desired DDaT work will be undertaken by ‘inside IR35’ consultants prepared to take a 22% pay cut.

“And somehow,” he wrote, reflecting on his second recommendation, “I don't see the top-drawer [DDaT] people doing that when they don't need to.”


This question mark over the public sector’s IT skills resources (as raised by both Gibson and TechMarketView), comes in a year that already threatens the sector with numerous pressures.

“[With] GDPR, ongoing budgetary pressures, a digital skills shortage and a minority government,” reflected the analyst firm’s Dale Peters, “suppliers and their customers will have some challenging waters to navigate.”

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Written by Laura Wilkinson

Laura is the Head of Marketing for ContractorUK. She has worked at ContractorUK for over 10 years and is qualified with a Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing via The IDM.
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