HMRC cuts over 150 offices to reduce running costs
The regional centres, described as “shared government hubs” will be supplemented with four specialist sites and a central London headquarters. The first regional centre in Croydon has had its contract signed by HMRC. HMRC believes that this will provide flexibility for a primarily digital service, in line with its Making Accounts Digital (MAD Plans).
The National Audit office has already warned HMRC that “During the transition to regional centres, HMRC must ensure that its service to taxpayers and its ability to collect tax revenue are not impaired,” . Our view is that the chances of this actually happening are between zero and bugger all.
The National Audit Office (NAO), considered HMRCs original plan of reorganisation “unrealistic”. This is due to moving or replacing too many staff too quickly while delivering 14 other major change programmes. HMRC had underestimated the scale of the disruption involved, with up to 5,000 staff expected to leave as a result of the proposed move as 38,000 employees will need to move to regional centres or leave. HMRC currently has more space than it needs and much of it is in poor condition, which it considers reduces morale and productivity.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “HMRC should step back and consider whether this strategy still best supports its wider business transformation and will deliver the sustainable cost savings it set out to achieve in the long run.”
A HMRC spokesman said: “HMRC’s employees are currently spread across 159 UK offices. Our 13 new regional centres are an essential part of our work to modernise HMRC and provide an even better service for our customers. We say “it could hardly be worse”
As of November 2016, HMRC had the fourth-largest estate across central government. It spends around £250 million each year running its estate to accommodate its 58,600 staff.
Mapeley STEPS’ (Strategic Transfer of Estate to the Private Sector) contract with HMRC of 20 years expires in 2021 and covers two thirds of its estate, which means leaving existing buildings needs to be negotiated. All the regional centres need to be up and running before the STEPS contract ends in March 2021 as rental and service costs will increase.