Brown ‘holding out’ for private sector tax boss

Chancellor Gordon Brown may be delaying a decision on the appointment of a
new chairman for HM Revenue & Customs to hold out for a private sector

Sir David Varney, the former chairman of the tax body, announced his
departure in July last year, and there has been no official decision as yet as
to who will replace him, nor anything on the process of replacing him.

Whitehall figures are speculating that the chancellor may be holding up the
decision until a private sector figure becomes available in the spring. The loss
of Sir David at HMRC has been interpreted as a blow to political moves to get
more private sector figures into Whitehall.

Paul Gray is currently the acting chairman of the department. Gray was
formerly Sir David’s deputy and has been seen as the most likely replacement.
Unlike other candidates, Gray has wide experience across Whitehall, having
worked in senior roles at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Gray has been well-received at HMRC. ‘He has done a good job on tax credits,’
one Whitehall observer said. But the lack of any news on the appointment has
surprised some. One theory is that Brown’s imminent ascension to prime minister
was one factor.

The appointment will have to be approved by a new chancellor, likely to be
Alistair Darling, the new prime minister and the Queen.

One private sector figure close to Brown is Lord Leitch, the former chief
executive of Zurich, who recently chaired a review of skills. He could be
contender for the role with good private sector credentials.

The process of appointing a successor to Sir David could take a number of
forms. Either an internal appointment will be made, or an open competition
either across Whitehall or further afield will take place. There are said to be
few figures across Whitehall with the experience to take on the role other than
Gray however.

Sir David came from mm02, where he had been chairman, and chief executive of
British Gas before that. It is a key aim of Brown and others to attempt to
attract private sector talent into Whitehall, a move which may be difficult
given the salaries on offer. Sir David earnt £175,000 in the job, according to
the department’s annual report.

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