PCS union slates HMRC’s office reorganisation plans

HMRC staff at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) annual conference have condemned the department’s plans to close local offices as ‘impractical’, and indicated they will continue to campaign for a review of the decision to move most employees to new regional hubs under HMRC’s Building our Future (BoF) strategy

At the meeting in Brighton, union members endorsed a group executive committee strategy that said HMRC’s actions would result in a ‘major impediment to the department’s ability to enforce compliance and to operate effectively post-Brexit’.

The union has published a paper, ‘Building a Better Future - the PCS Alternative for HMRC’, which said the department should plan for a larger number of regional centres, and additional specialist sites in areas where there will be major gaps in the network.’

‘The BoF programme is capable of breaking HMRC, and making it impossible to deliver its primary objectives, ’it said. The paper urged stepping up local campaigning and building industrial strength to prepare for department-wide action should it be needed.

Peter Dowd, MP for Bootle - where all HMRC offices are earmarked for closure - told delegates the cuts would be ‘disruption on a massive scale’ that was ‘not particularly well-thought out’. Bootle was a ‘classic case’ of HMRC ignoring the evidence that their plans were unworkable, he said.

The organisation and planning had been ‘dreadful’ in its overall strategy and local execution, he added.

In March 2017 PCS revealed HMRC had decided to speed up some moves into the Croydon regional centre, the first of the new hubs to open, as well as at the transitional site in Portsmouth and the ‘stepping stone’ site in Maidstone.

As a result, offices in Brighton, Uxbridge, Redhill, Gravesend and Wingfield House in Portsmouth were earmarked for earlier closures than originally advised. London staff have begun moving to a new site in Canary Wharf in a process spanning the next 18 months.

HMRC has also announced plans to create a new specialist site at Haven House in Ipswich, ensuring that HMRC will have a presence in the East of England beyond 2028.

At the time, the union said: ‘Accelerating the closure dates will undoubtedly, and unnecessarily, force more members out of the department earlier, meaning a loss of even more vital experience at a time when the department already has real challenges in recruitment and delivering training to replace those who have already left.’

Under BoF, HMRC is in the process of moving from a widely dispersed estate of 170 offices to 13 regional centres supplemented by four specialist sites and a headquarters in central London.

At the beginning of the year the National Audit Office (NAO) published an analysis of HMRC’s plans to close dozens of local offices and move to a network of regional hubs, saying they were ‘unrealistic’. The watchdog warned of a high a risk of disruption, loss of expertise, and failure to achieve the planned costs savings, while it said changing the strategy could diminish the long term financial and business gains.

An HMRC spokesman said: ‘Our 13 new regional centres are an essential part of our work to modernise HMRC and provide an even better service for our customers, while delivering annual savings to the taxpayer of over £80m from 2025-26.

‘It also means modern offices for our staff, with the latest technology, better collaboration between teams, local training and wider career opportunities.’

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