Ferries, Lorraine Kelly and All That

We are delighted to be able to feature the occasional guest post from our previous MD, Peter Smith, co-founder of Spend Matters Europe. Today he shares some of his most recent musings ... 

It’s been a bit of a shock to the system, really. Having written around two articles a day for eight years for Spend Matters, I stopped that at the end of 2018.  I’m focusing my writing now more in the direction of possible books (and even a film script … no, it’s not about procurement), although I’m still doing a few articles for publications around the procurement world.  I’m still getting out to some event too – maybe see you in Paris next month

But old habits die hard, and I must admit I can’t help but see news stories and current events as fodder for procurement-related articles. Several times a week, I find myself thinking “that would make a good article… oh hang on, I don’t do that any more”! So, when Nancy Clinton invited me to write a guest post today, my thoughts turned to some of those.

There have been some interesting stories in the procurement software provider world, and I’m sure I would have got some material from Brexit although to be fair, I’m not at all sure what I could have said that would be useful to procurement professionals. Except maybe – emigrate?

But the Brexit ferries fiasco would certainly have been worth a few articles. I confess that I initially had some sympathy for Chris Grayling and his team. We can’t preach the message of supporting SMEs and being open to innovation if we don’t occasionally take a risk on firms outside the current market leaders. However, it did eventually seem that there were some details of the firm’s offering that had perhaps not been checked out as fully as they should. And the lack of foresight around the legal challenge from Eurotunnel was even less excusable, I believe.

Then last week, there was another news story that grabbed my interest. Lorraine Kelly, the ITV television presenter, won a legal case against HMRC, the UK tax authorities. It was around the long-running thorny issues concerning the difference between people being employed and being a service provider. Kelly, like many other media people, and indeed workers as varied as IT experts or fast food delivery cyclists, sold her services as a freelancer. But HMRC claimed she was actually employed by ITV and owed the public purse more than £1 million in tax and national insurance payments.

But the court decided that she was in fact a “supplier”.  She didn’t receive staff benefits and could take on other work, for instance. They pointed out that although she wasn’t an actor playing a defined role, she was in a sense putting on a performance as the “presenter Lorraine Kelly”.

The judge said: "We did not accept that Ms Kelly simply appeared as herself - we were satisfied that Ms Kelly presents a persona of herself, she presents herself as a brand and that is the brand ITV sought when engaging her. All parts of the show are a performance, the act being to perform the role of a friendly, chatty and fun personality”.

It’s quite an interesting philosophical point – how many of us are playing a role in our day-to-day jobs, we might ask in a reflective moment!  But aside from that rather deep conundrum, this case again highlights that procurement teams need to get to grips with the whole space around consultants, contractors, contingent labour, statement of works type activities and everything related. In many cases, that means working closely with colleagues in HR too, in order to understand the regulatory issues as well as the commercial. That will become even more important when the IR35 regulations for the private sector take effect from April 2020.

It does feel like governments are struggling to keep up with the new patterns of work that have developed and grown in recent years – the gig economy, the growth of part-time and older workers for instance. But as organisations rely more and more on people who aren’t full-time staff, the task of managing this well becomes harder and harder. An interesting challenge for the contingent labour category manager anyway, who now must have one of the most challenging procurement jobs around!

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