Your shout: Tax system, piracy and jobs

Have your say at



Have your say at



Revenue CIO may bring a culture of openness


Following your report and editorial on the problems facing HM Revenue & Customs' chief information officer Steve Lamey (Computer Weekly, 31 May), I would like to offer him the support of the application software industry.


The Business Application Software Developers Association (Basda) has struggled over many years to persuade government departments to be realistic about the introduction of new systems. We have seen predictable disaster after disaster, culminating in this year's PAYE end-of-year e-filing.


Computer Weekly reported our concerns in March, warning of the impending problems, but Revenue & Customs presented outdated case studies during the campaign trying to show that everything was fine.


The truth was that Revenue & Customs had to turn off its PAYE validation engine and drop penalties for late submission in order to receive the volume of submissions people wanted to send electronically.


However, since Lamey's appointment, we have seen a change of attitude.


A few days ago we were contacted by a senior representative from his department who asked for our views and showed a refreshingly thoughtful and responsive reaction to our comments.


It would be a huge backwards step if the "civil service culture of denial" were to prevail, and Lamey and his team were prevented from introducing a culture of openness and co-operation at Revenue & Customs.


Dennis Keeling, chief executive, Basda



Cutting software piracy is not a silver bullet


I read with amazement (and not a little incredulity) that a "relatively minor" reduction in illegal software use would create 40,000 jobs and raise £2bn in tax revenue in the UK (Computer Weekly, 7 June).


Perhaps John Lovelock could be a little more explicit and tell us what sort of jobs will be created, and where; and how (bearing in mind that the Business Software Alliance's own report suggests the total value of software pirated in the UK last year was less than £1bn) a reduction of less than a half will raise five times as much again in tax?


I speak both as a taxpayer and as someone who makes his living creating software.


Terry Billany



Where's the evidence for 40,000 new jobs?


John Lovelock (Computer Weekly, 7 June) thinks that a reduction in illegal software use from 27% to 17% is "relatively minor". I'll bet he would not say the same about a 27% cut in his pay packet.


It makes you wonder whether his "40,000 extra jobs" and "£2bn to UK tax revenue" were not arrived at in an equally slapdash manner, especially since he adduces no evidence for either figure.


Christopher Moseley



Sell yourself to get the job you really want


The recruitment consultancy market is not as successful as it is without reason (Computer Weekly, 7 and 14 June). It offers a service that is warmly received by most recruiters and candidates. You contact them and benefit from all the cold-calling to source candidates and employers throughout the country. It is a straightforward service, and it works, otherwise there would not be a directory of more than 500 such agencies in front of me as I write.


However, there are situations where the simple service is unsuitable - for candidates who wish to migrate across roles or technologies, or employers looking for something special.


The cost of using agencies is somewhere between 10% and 30% of the salary for the job and employers are not prepared to pay that for anything other than a perfect match: why should they?


Rather than complain to and about recruitment consultants, candidates should take a proactive approach. Set out your stall, be clear about why you think you are worth a gamble, and go sell yourself.


Find a directory of companies that might be doing what you want to do, and go through it making phone calls. You will be amazed at how receptive prospective employers are when they hear you are representing yourself.


I can offer advice, enthusiasm and resources for anyone who has enough nous to find out how to get in touch with me. I can't get you a job, but I may be able to help you get one for yourself. All I ask is that you return the courtesy by taking my call should I seek advice from you in the future.


Peter Cameron, IT consultant, Mesosys



Market upturn will weed out dud recruiting firms


I agree with David Newman's assessment (Computer Weekly, 7 June) that there are many uneducated recruiters in the IT industry. This, however, is a yardstick which client or candidate should use to define a quality recruitment consultant.


No longer can a quality consultancy hire a former used car salesman if we are to have any professional integrity or long-term client and candidate relationships. I am sure some agencies will - and with the stability and upturn of the market no doubt unscrupulous individuals and organisations will try the hard-sell, fast-buck approach that was so prevalent around Y2K. 


Recruitment consultants are not expected to know in-depth technical skill sets. Just as project managers or business analysts do not necessarily need to be able to knock out code, it is more about understanding the requirements and issues.


Communication and sound recruitment processes are essential, taking a full technical requirement (or, in the candidate's situation, their role requirements) and asking the pertinent questions about why the need has arisen and the broader goals. It should be evident very quickly if you are dealing with a professional.


A down-to-earth, people-focused approach will always win for all parties in the long-term. There are some excellent IT recruitment consultants out there: once you find one, stick with them.


Paul Swettenham, recruitment consultant, AndersElite IT



On the cost of cooling blade datacentres 


Iain Davie's letter (Computer Weekly, 7 June) about blade datacentres demanding a cooling and power distribution rethink (Computer Weekly, 24 May) conveys in every word the fact that he does not fully understand the true implications the advent of the blade server is having on existing power distribution and cooling systems in many datacentres.


The trend is not stopping here either. Predicted development of the blade shows this worrying trend on power and cooling demands continuing to rise.


I take his points about setting things up properly, but this is just one ingredient in what is a very difficult cake to bake. The fact is that advances in blade technology have completely out-stripped the mechanical and electrical design specifications of many existing datacentres that were commissioned before the blade market opened up. With floor space often at a premium and at a cost, the option of simply spacing things out more is not often viable or cost effective.


It is also fair to say that air-to-air cooling systems are not effective in cooling the high-density blade racks and blade farms that we see today. There comes a point where, in order to get the required cooling where you need it, alternative methods - such as liquid cooling - must be considered. Having cool air around the rack is no longer good enough.


More executive attention and support needs to be given to those who are responsible for managing and running datacentres to allow the benefits of technology advances to be realised without risk to service.


Iain Jenkins, operations and infrastructure manager



On sensitive data and second-hand hard discs


With so many reports about hackers and organised crime, I found it surprising that so many second-hand hard discs contained data that was easily recoverable (Computer Weekly, 7 June).


As a company employee, I would be worried to learn that my information could be so easily retrieved by whoever bought my old computer. Not only does failing to erase information provide hackers with company passwords and sensitive business data, it also provides opportunities for identity theft, putting employees at risk.


At the end of the day, any corporate IT department should know it needs to make sure that computers a company discards have all the sensitive data wiped.


If they following simple security policies and procedures such as those laid down in BS 7799, IT departments will have a simple check-list which can prevent situations like this from happening.


Donal Casey, technical consultant, Diagonal Security



On the introduction of e-voting technology


In his letter (Computer Weekly, 7 June) Paul Renucci said, "Voter apathy needs to be tackled and the telephone is the logical, safe and secure solution."


If it is too much trouble for millions of eligible voters to travel from their homes one day every four or five years to cast a vote, then no technology, no matter how convenient, logical, safe or secure, is likely to affect the real cause of low polls.


The real problem is not voter apathy. It is the political system that produces it. Many people don't vote because they do not believe that their vote makes any difference.


Our electoral system means that only votes in marginal constituencies count. And there is little difference between the larger parties. All three fall over themselves to take the centre ground.


Increasingly the real decisions that govern us are taken behind closed doors without political accountability, in collusion with big industry and big commerce, removing both power and visibility from the electorate. This trend is set to accelerate, if we eventually do ratify anything resembling the European Constitution, or even if we remain at our current level of European entanglement. 


Already most of the laws passed by our parliament are decided by unelected EU politicians and imposed on our national government by the treaties we have already signed, from Rome (1972) to Nice (2000).


The only way to effectively counter voter apathy is to restore some real power to the voters. 


Hedley Lester

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