HMRC chief Jon Thompson on relocation, going digital, and Thin Lizzy at Christmas

Written by Civil Service World on 21 December 2016 in Interview
Interview

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Jon Thompson, chief executive of the Ministry of Defence, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...

Ministry of Defence permanent secretary Jon Thompson

What was your highlight of 2016?
It’s difficult to pick a single highlight from this year but changing roles in April was perhaps the most significant and bittersweet moment for me personally: leaving the MoD after seven fascinating years in order to take up the challenge of leading HMRC provoked real mixed emotions.  

As the CEO of HMRC, one of my goals is to give the organisation more confidence in itself.  On that basis, being shortlisted for nine of the 14 Civil Service Awards this year was a fantastic moment for HMRC; an external validation of the many great things we are doing across so many teams. Go team HMRC!

What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
This year we began our Regional Centres relocation programme which, over the next few years, will see us consolidate our existing office estate into just 13 regional centres. This move is integral to our plans to create a tax authority fit for the future, but has nonetheless meant significant and widespread change to ways of working and, for colleagues in various parts of the country, some difficult decisions about their future. This change is ongoing but remains perhaps the most significant felt so far this year by a majority of colleagues at HMRC. 

What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
Perhaps the largest challenge for HMRC moving forward is the enormity of our transformational agenda. We’re striving to change a largely paper-based transactional organisation into one of the biggest digital businesses in Europe. That involves changing almost all of our fundamental processes, how we work with our customers, and how our customers work with us. There are 15 interdependent programmes that we have to make work and synchronise over the term of this parliament. 

What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
The best Christmas present I’ve ever received was Live and Dangerous by Thin Lizzy. My gran bought me the LP version, in a gatefold sleeve, when I was 12. I don’t know why but it remains my favourite album of all time and switched me on to heavy metal for life! 

More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017

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