I’m Claire White, one of six new committee members. I joined the then Inland Revenue in 2004, as a graduate, taking a place on the Inspector Development Programme (now TSP). I think I can safely say that geography is not my strong point. If I needed any proof of that, it arrived in the form of me having to look up where Portsmouth was when offered a place on IDP there. I’m from Yorkshire and I knew Portsmouth was somewhere ‘down south’ but that was about it!
I joined ARC immediately on entering the department. I’ve always been passionate about the power of collective bargaining and the fact that we have strength in numbers. My dad is a retired bus driver and one of my proudest possessions is his old Transport and General Workers’ Union alarm clock. Though I must admit I only use it in emergencies—it ticks incredibly loudly!
At the end of IDP, in November 2008, I was promoted to Grade 7. I spent the next few years as a Corporation Tax specialist and then in 2012 became a Business Learning Manager (BLM), managing trainees on what was by then the TPDP course. I really enjoyed being a BLM—it was great seeing trainees develop and grow, and having a little bit to do with that was very fulfilling. However, I realised that while helping trainees to achieve their aspirations, I still had some aspirations of my own that I wanted to fulfil. And so, I started working in London for Business, Assets and International (BAI) as a policy and technical advisor, first as a Grade 7 and then as a Grade 6.
The commute from Portsmouth to London (an eye-watering two hours 20 minutes each way) quickly became too much and so I moved. To the Midlands. No, that isn’t my poor geography skills kicking in again, it really did make it a much shorter commute to London by moving, well, further away from London. It also had the added benefit of being nearer to my parents, still in Yorkshire, and to close family who also live in the Midlands.
Since November 2018, I’ve been on loan from BAI to EU Exit Customs policy. It has all of the same challenges as a direct tax policy role, plus a few more. The changing political landscape and the uncertainty of what will happen make for interesting work, albeit with a huge amount of pressure. It has been a challenge moving from direct tax to customs, something I hadn’t had experience of before. Currently, I manage a team with responsibility for a variety of non-fiscal customs areas. It involves a substantial amount of cross-government cooperation, and it has been interesting to see how different departments work. My loan to EU Exit is due to finish on 31 October. Given another key event that is due to happen on 31 October, we’ll have to see whether my tenure in customs actually ends then.
I wanted to join committee for the same reasons I joined the union—I believe we are stronger together. But I also want to do more for the union, to help hold the department to account and to ensure members are being listened to.
Having joined the department as a trainee, and having spent two years as a BLM, I’m particularly interested in trainees’ concerns as well as those of BLMs. As a female and a feminist, I want to ensure women’s voices are heard. As someone who’s been in the department for several years I am, of course, interested in pay.
I look forward to representing you as a member of your Committee.