Tax ‘lab’ on agenda

A senior Labour politician backed proposals by Andersen Consulting managers last week to the House of Commons’ social services select committee for a ‘laboratory’ to evaluate tax and benefit reforms.

Andersen’s government practice partner Tim Gbedemah told the committee that such a facility could be set up within 15 months, allowing the government to assess the impact of welfare proposals on individual families and leaving enough time to feed the findings into the chancellor’s consultative timetable.

Andersen’s concept would involve a few thousand volunteer participants from a single area such as a provincial town.

Integrating taxation and benefits systems is high on the government’s agenda. As part of its examination of detailed proposals, the social services select committee – which includes former Andersens research director Patricia Hewitt – invited Andersens and IT company EDS to give evidence based on their previous experience with the Inland Revenue and Benefits Agency.

Gbedemah said Andersens had not costed its proposal, but that it was happy to contribute to the policy formulation process. ‘Devising policy applies our business integration capability to the public sector,’ he said.

Select committee chairman Archy Kirkwood would not pre-empt the committee’s final report but supported Andersen’s proposal: ‘The government should accept the need to test and pilot policies before they are rolled out.’

He added, however, that in spite of their previous work in the field, neither Andersen Consulting nor EDS would enjoy ‘favourite cousin’ status on tax-benefit integration contracts.

Related reading