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Present

Members

  • Kathryn Bishop, Chair
  • Dyfed Edwards, Deputy Chair
  • Jocelyn Davies, Non-Executive
  • David Jones, Non-Executive 
  • Lakshmi Narain, Non-Executive
  • Dyfed Alsop, Chief Executive Officer
  • Sean Bradley, Chief Legal and Policy Officer 
  • Sam Cairns, Chief Operations Officer
  • Lucy Robinson, Customer Insight and Strategy

Ymgynghorwyr (advisors)

  • Joanna Ryder, Chief of Staff 
  • Melissa Quignon-Finch, Head of HR
  • Teresa Platt, Chief Finance Officer
  • Jim Scopes, Interim Chief Strategy Officer
  • Catrin Durie, Head of Communications  
  • Anna Adams , Deputy Director of Tax Strategy, Policy and Engagement - Welsh Treasury

Secretariat

  • Ceri Sullivan, Board Secretariat

Meeting opening

1. Welcome and introductions, conflicts of interest and apologies, minutes of the last meeting, matters arising

  1. The Chair welcomed everybody to the meeting, marking 2 years since the establishment of the WRA and its Board. No conflicts of interest were raised, although it was noted that the log required updating in light of recent changes.
     
  2. Comments on the minutes had been received prior to the meeting, and therefore provisional approval of the minute was given subject to one addition. Members agreed the redacted minute for publication.
     
  3. Apologies had been received from Andrew Jeffreys: Anna Adams was attending on his behalf and would present the Director, Welsh Treasury report.
     
  4. The Chair noted the decision of the last meeting and provided an update on outstanding actions, it was agreed that 5 actions would remain open.

Information redacted (Footnote 1).

Board discussion

2. Corporate Plan Review

  1. The Board were provided with a high-level update on progress against the organisation’s first 3-year corporate plan. The purpose of the item was to provide assurance to the Board that delivery against objectives was underway and that plans for future progress were in place.
     
  2. An overview of progress against 19/20 activity, linked to corporate plan objectives and performance measures was provided, including the following

    Revenue Collection (linked objective – Efficient): Changes to the finance system had been made to improve data and reporting. The changes had further automated revenue collection and improved payment times for debt.  The next phase would be to create a separate line for calls related to time to pay that would be managed by the finance function; all debt related calls would then be managed in one place, freeing up the operations team to deal with other matters. A review of this change in to the process would be carried out in 6 months.

    Data Objective: A small focus group had been established, with the focus for the first year on working together​; learning​; building the case​; and, considering our future governance. The prime focus so far had been on engagement, and 2 workshops would be held to inform our people about the type of data we collect and hold, how we currently use it and how it could be used in the future.  The team hope that as the level and quality of our data develops, it will attract new interest e.g. from universities, local authorities and departments of WG. The data which the organisation holds should be considered to be a significant resource, one that could benefit wider government and inform policy. It was noted that governance for data flows may require some work should the UK leave the European union.

    Making the most of our data (linked objective – Efficient): This area of work may decline during next year as processes and systems are fully developed. Members were informed that good progress has been made, although there had been some issues retrieving data from underlying systems.

    Data infrastructure (linked objective – Efficient): This area would evolve as the team begin to look at other types of data as well as continue to share data with other organisations. The Board were informed that Land Registry had agreed to share data with a Memorandum of Understanding now in place.

    Culture, Brand and Engagement (linked objective – Capable): The 2019 People Survey was now live; the headline results would be available to the Tîm Arwain in December and shared with the Board in at their February meeting. The results would be used to measure the work on this area, together with the organisation’s skill mix and diversity data. It was noted that the organisation’s people survey results were very high the previous year, but that may not be the case this year given that the organisation is in a very different place.  An overview of recent work was provided, including the work on WordTree and its reception within the organisation.
     
  3. The next update would be provided at the end of the financial year.

3. Review of ‘Our Approach’

  1. The Chair noted the significance of the decision that was taken to endorse this innovative approach and the risks involved, agreeing at the outset the importance of close monitoring to ensure it continues to work and benefit the organisation and wider Welsh Government.
     
  2. Work has been underway to ensure that the operations team fully understand and take ownership over this important aspect of our work.  The structure of that team was working well and collaboration across functions within the organisation has been key to the development of new process and systems.
     
  3. The early decision not to have target-driven call handling times has meant that staff have been able to spend as much time with the taxpayer or agent as has been needed to achieve our ‘once and done’ objective. The team have had success with the nudge approach and had been using feedback to make improvement to guidance and processes.
     
  4. Positive feedback had been received from agents on our approach to tax risk and mitigation activity as well as from organisations, such as Revenue Scotland (RS), who were keen to understand the WRA ‘s strategy and develop something similar. Mitigation work also continued to focus the work of the Case Management Committee (CMC).
     
  5. Data was available for the first time on our approach to tax risk. The importance of the correlation between performance data and Our Approach was important to justify the non-traditional approach being taken here. An overview of how the data is used was presented and members were provided with an overview of the last 3 quarters. It was too early to draw any firm conclusion but the continued tracking of this data is expected to show the direct impact of tax risk mitigation.
     
  6. The Board were interested in quantifying the savings the approach is having on resource against the effort and resource going into implementing this approach. It was noted that this would be useful to understand, particularly with the absence of the compliance yield approach that is taken by other tax bodies. It was noted that this approach is not only benefiting our organisation but it is also saving our agents’ businesses money.
     
  7. The Board were pleased with the information and the format in which it was presented. Members welcomed 6 monthly reviews, agreeing that this would allow sufficient time to collect data and present it in a way that illustrates the benefits. It was also felt that it was beneficial to receive this update alongside the Corporate Plan update.
     
  8. It was felt that this would be a useful presentation to share with staff to get their views on the work, to ensure they understand the purpose and culture around it.
     
  9. The reputational risks involved were discussed, particularly those that could come with challenging agents and tax payers.

4. TMS / digital change planning

  1. A further update was provided following the Board’s earlier briefing in September. An overview of the governance in place was provided as well as information on the workstreams now underway.
     
  2. The Board noted that monthly reports on progress were presented to Tîm Arwain along with updates against the remaining business priorities.
     
  3. The Change Portfolio Committee approved the project and budget in early October and discovery work followed shortly after. The wider project covers the end-to-end process from design to implementation of changes.

Reports, approval and discussion

5. Report from the Chair

  1. The Chair provided an overview of recent activity. Her next quarterly meeting with the Minister would take place the following day, the focus of which would be on WRA performance against the corporate plan.
     
  2. The Deputy Chair had attended the Public Leaders’ Summit the previous week, and he provided an overview of the themes of the day. He noted that such meetings are useful for sharing information and best practice and were also good opportunities to engage with people who had little knowledge of the work of the WRA.

6. Report from the CEO (operational performance)

  1. The CEO provided some further context to his report as well as his analysis of how the first 6 months of the financial year had gone.
     
  2. He noted that the agreed KPI’s may have seemed somewhat ambitious, but the data showed the hard work and effort that had taken place across the organisation in the last 6 months on key operational matters.
     
  3. Feedback on our engagement with agents and taxpayers has been positive and our continued engagement with different departments across WG has improved. The CEO and members of Tîm Arwain have had a number of meetings with senior leaders from other organisations to establish relationships and create opportunities for information sharing.
     
  4. The CEO continued to attend Welsh Government Senior Leaders Meetings held by the Permanent Secretary. At these meetings, the group discuss Brexit preparations, mitigating activity and resource allocation. The WRA’s support is being actively offered but there has been no sign that our people will be called on at this time.
     
  5. The minimal staff that would likely be directly affected by Brexit were known to on the Head of HR’s and when necessary, the intention would be to support those members of staff and their families where possible. A point was raised about the possibility of Brexit affecting our working practices with some WRA suppliers, the importance of this was noted and the CEO assured the Board that this would be considered.
     
  6. An overview of key statistics was provided, and the Board was informed that this would be updated on 31st October, marking the end of the next quarter. Members were taken through the performance data which indicated that the organisation was performing well. In the next period, the focus would be on gathering feedback to inform the measure on the ‘how people find us’.

7. Financial performance

Information redacted (Footnote 1).

8. Report from Director, Welsh Treasury

Information redacted (Footnote 1).

Meeting closing

9. Key messages

  1. The Chair introduced the item noting that that this would be a permanent fixture on the agenda for the foreseeable future. This item is not for discussion but rather is an opportunity for the Head of Communications to relay some of the key messages from the meeting that would be shared with staff through a news article.
     
  2. The Head of Communications provided an overview of key messages taken from the meeting, explaining that the purpose was to ensure our people are kept informed of key activity within the organisation.

10. Any other business

  1. The Chair noted that this would be the Chief Finance Officer’s (CFO) final meeting as an Ymgynghorwr to the Board. Members thanked her for her hard work and her contribution, firstly on setting up the finance function as part of the WRA Implementation Programme and secondly for her time as the CFO.

11. Forward look

  1. Members were informed that further work would be done to align the Board’s forward look with that of the People Committee and ARAC.

12. Meeting review

Information redacted (Footnote 1).

[1] There are certain circumstances where it is not appropriate to share all of the information contained within the Board minutes, for example, where it contains personal or commercial data or relates to the formulation of government policy etc. or the effective conduct of public affairs. In such circumstances, the information has been redacted and the text is marked clearly that this has been the case.

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