Entering the final straight
Two weeks ending 6 May 2018
Monday 23 April saw me flying solo for the last time before I hand over the role to Paula. She had done what I did before I became President and booked a holiday (I haven’t told her I didn’t get another one, at least not abroad)! I was all for it, because I remember it recharging my batteries before I took over in Nottingham.
So Monday morning was a grievance call and a call on the customs work currently being done in Bicester. The grievance process is being rewritten and while we have concerns about losing the grievance test and about the pressure the new system may put on managers we are keen to make sure the process works and that the guidance is not over engineered. John Parkhouse is plugged-in to this as he leads on our personal casework.
Then I did lots of editing of the annual report (RTI is very useful for this) and lots of emails before beginning to think about after dinner speeches and other such necessities.
Tuesday saw me travel to Manchester to the annual POD conference – more day job – where I was glad to hear the Regional Centre Change Leads welcomed into POD and where I ended up facilitating because our table had no facilitator and they asked for a volunteer. It was challenging as they only provided half a brief! An interesting day and good to turn round a very cynical trainer who agreed to try and see the positives before discussing the negatives.
I travelled straight down to London from Manchester as I had a meeting with Kirsty Blackman at 10.00am the next morning (Wednesday) and didn’t want to be late. I had an enjoyable 30 minutes with her. She is very concerned about a particular customs relief, about which I knew nothing, but she was also keen to hear how we were organised as a department and what ARC added to the working of the department. I found her really interesting – but she may have had an agenda around the customs relief which I presumably disappointed her on!
Then lunch with Ray McCann, an ex-HRMC employee and the next President of CIOT who is interested in making joining slightly easier if you have sufficient years’ experience in tax. I asked him the question about what could be done around behaviour of people who are not individual members of a professional body. This was to try and solve the issue that they have with an individual in Bristol who is not treating our members well – in fact he is abusing them. He is an ex-HMRC employee who works for a firm of advisors but is not actually a member of any professional body and is allegedly too senior in the firm to be disciplined. Ray told me that the firm could still be disciplined, if it was a member of a professional body and was not controlling one of its partners or employees. So I asked for details from Bristol Centre.
Finally, a call prior to the launch of the VR offers on 26 April which covered colleagues in Worcester office. I was keen to be sure they were getting the right figures sent out.
Thursday was a clear day so there was more email culling and writing of blogs and reports plus a conversation with Zohra about how we thought the tribunal scheduled for the following week would go. Zohra has worked particularly hard on this case in quite trying circumstances, something she does particularly well.
Friday I was on what seemed like a tour of London! Into the office at Waterloo, across to 100 PS to meet the head of Corporate Comms and a great chat about how we should defend our staff in the media without giving away any confidential details. Then a walk to Bush House whilst talking to Janet Alexander our new director of ISBC, before going into Bush House for the Workforce Planning, Organisational Design and location programme meeting from 1pm to 3pm. Then the 16.15 train out of Marylebone home for the weekend.
Another quiet one with RTI trying to get into the garden and ferrying our son to his job at McDonalds. Plus taking youngest daughter out driving and counting the learning opportunities it provides. A highlight this weekend was my eldest daughter completing a mini triathlon in Stratford – swimming 400m in a pool, riding 18k on her bike and running 5k to finish. This from someone who has never been that sporty and who describes herself as ‘doing a running action’ rather than running!
Monday 30 April (which was my Nan’s birthday) was my day job again – CSG have been running events for their managers across the UK and a regional person opens each one. I opened for West Midlands and had a lapel mike – the instructions I received told me to wear something with a belt so I could have a lapel mike – this seemed odd but I duly wore trousers with no belt – and realised why a belt would have been better! I recognised loads of faces which was great, particularly as they didn’t recognise me until I spoke which was quite amusing!
Home from that and then down to the station for a train to London as Tuesday was full on again with the monthly HR Policy and ER team meetings in Canary Wharf. Loz was there, which was useful, as he will be taking these forward with Paula. The usual discussions about issues we have been unable to solve, such as when the new grievance process will start and a review of how we think things are going in general. The proposed changes to the ER team, as Chris Elliott leaves on a career break, may alter the dynamics of this meeting, but they have been reasonably productive – if a little too frequent!
Following the meetings, I decided I would go and see Michelle Wyer in hospital. It was near Stanmore tube station on the jubilee line so I thought it would be easy! How wrong I was. Fifty minutes on the tube deposited me in the middle of nowhere, so I got a taxi which dropped me right in the middle of the hospital by a sign for the right ward. But I could only find a staff entrance to the ward, so in an inconspicuous red mac I walked in through the staff door and approached Michelle from the wrong end of the ward – she was looking at the door when I said hello and was quite surprised to see me there! I had to explain my geographical fail – but at least managed to leave by the right door. Michelle was looking tired but much better than when I had last seen her – the second operation appeared to have gone well and we discussed that she might perhaps make it to the dinner only, we agreed that was something to aim for. I left after an hour and a half to find a way back to the flat, fortunately on the jubilee line but still a trek. It was worth it though, as I know Michelle was pleased to see me.
Wednesday was EC and a drink afterwards with Gareth, who was chairing his last EC as President of FDA. Issues for discussion ere motions for ADC the next week and other urgent business requiring a decision before the next committee term begins. I am staying on EC because I think it is the right thing to do – the diversity of committee is poor and needs improvement but we need to persuade people that this is worth doing – I believe it is, but I will miss the away day because we are going to Cyprus.
Thursday was a quick meeting with Jim Rogers on AGM stuff. We were finalising the agenda and then a meeting with Jacky Wright, DG of CDIO. I do find these meetings productive and we manage to cover quite a lot of ground. The one issue we are still waiting for details on, is what jobs, exactly, will move out of London as we have colleagues in Southend who are concerned.
My meeting with Jon Thompson was bounced from 4 May, so I got an early and cheap ticket out of Marylebone on Friday morning (you can’t get them cheap on a Thursday night so I didn’t travel back that evening) and once home continued with finalising the annual report. I had spent some of the week sending scanned expenses receipts for the audit of our accounts, as I have them in the FDA office now that the FDA finance team are looking at them for us.
Another quiet weekend except for a rather riotous bbq on the Sunday evening to celebrate my eldest daughter’s birthday on the Tuesday. The weather was fantastic and we were able to sit out until about 9pm which was thoroughly enjoyable.