A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Competex's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Competex is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Charles Fowler, Founder and
Competex provides specialist accountancy services for interim
managers and other senior independent professionals who
have left the security of permanent employment to work
as consultants in either the private or public sector. Founder and
Director Charles Fowler established the company 20 years ago in
Reigate, Surrey, specifically to provide accountancy services to this
group of people. At the time, he was surprised to discover that a
quarter of his clients were themselves qualified accountants who
had previously worked in industry or commerce, but who now
simply wanted to continue using their commercial skills while
leaving the technical issues to others.
Traditionally, consultants have always worked through their own personal service
companies, but this has recently come under attack by HMRC. Consequently, in recent
times, many senior managers at the top of their profession, who have a wealth of
knowledge and might otherwise have gone on to work as independent professionals,
have seen this as a disincentive and have chosen to retire fully while still absurdly young.
Many are financially self-sufficient and have no real need for further work, but the
economy will be worse off without their input.
How we got started
Coming from a completely different work environment, many individuals look for help and
guidance when they set up on their own, not least with regard to the technical requirements
of HMRC and Companies House and the avoidance of penalties for late filing. Consequently,
our clients look to us as much to ease the transition from permanent employment as
they do to prepare their accounts on a timely basis and keep them compliant.
In setting up the practice, I wanted to be able to provide flexible employment for mothers of
young children who had the necessary skills but were not always able to work in the office
across regular hours; they would need to be able to log on to our server and work from
home. Additionally, I wanted to take on clients regardless of their geographical location.
To achieve these two aspirations, we developed standardised systems with an emphasis
on remote working and invested in a system that would indicate if staff were working
and available to take calls. Since all of our clients’ requirements were broadly similar,
we introduced an all-inclusive package that included secretarial, payroll and accounting
services for a fixed fee, so that our clients knew exactly what they were signing up for.
Working as a consultant
Working as an interim or independent consultant can be a lonely existence and is not
for the faint of heart. To be successful, one must demonstrate specific skills and may
have to travel extensively. For some, it is a precarious existence; there is no guarantee
of ongoing work, no sick pay or holiday pay, and no pension contributions other than
from one’s own fee income.
»Founder and Director:
»Established in 1998
»Based in Reigate, Surrey, with
clients nationwide
»Services: Specialist
accountancy services
»No. of employees: 18
»No. of clients: 500 and
Of course, for the client, there are
considerable advantages. There are no
hidden costs relating to “downtime”
and no separate pension contributions.
Daily rates will always be higher than for
permanent staff, but payment is made
only for time spent on the assignment
Using technology appropriately
To function successfully, remote working
requires up-to-date IT and communications.
Our clients use web-based bookkeeping
software licensed by FreeAgent to
generate invoices and to record their
own business expenses, and their bank
transactions stream into the software
automatically. The software allows for
much more, but this is basic for all our
clients. We can additionally monitor
clients’ input by using a dashboard that
gives us constant access to all transactions
– meaning that we can provide real-time
support when clients need our help.
Technology allows us to send out final
annual accounts and corporation tax
computations to clients for approval by way
of a secure portal. On receipt, clients apply
an electronic signature and the accounts
are then filed electronically with Companies
House and HMRC – all within minutes.
Marketing challenges
For our clients, self-marketing is a continual
challenge, and we help in three ways.
»Our “Interim Hub” website has
been developed to educate, help
and advise all those who are new
to working on their own, and is
probably the most comprehensive
available source of information about
the interim management sector.
»Here, also, we provide a searchable
database of all the agencies that
are known to place consultants on
»Using our new “Soloist” CV
search website, any independent
professional may advertise their
availability for work and be found by
agencies and end clients.
Marketing is important for us, too. It
requires the combined skills of both
the older and younger generations.
Clients look to the older generation for
advice and guidance when they start
out, but the younger generation are
typically more well versed when it comes
to the internet and social media. The
young have the skill sets that make our
marketing and branding more focused,
which tends to create good results.
The Competex and Interim Hub websites
receive some 1,000 unique visitors each
month, and we use advanced CRM
software to keep track of what visitors
to our websites are looking at and how
we can best keep in touch with our
An active, technologically
dependent future
We like to think of ourselves as a
proactive and technologically advanced
practice, and for this we seek constantly
to update our systems.
Last year’s GDPR regulations prompted
us to carry out an in-depth review of
our systems, with the aim of making
the office as paperless as possible.
We had archived paper records going
back far longer than necessary, even
though these same documents were
still available on our servers, and
now we keep a minimal number of
A recent improvement has been the
introduction of fibre-optic technology.
Not only does it greatly enhance
connectivity for new cloud-based
software, but it also enables us to
benefit from an advanced telephone
network with all the features of a
larger company’s system – all with no
installation cost and less maintenance
than was required previously.
All these advances are exciting, and they
enable us to continue providing the
high-quality, specialised services that our
clients have come to expect of us.
To function
remote working
requires up-to-
date IT and

This article was sponsored by Competex. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister