Big holes in BoF plans

When HMRC announced the future location strategy in November 2015, PCS responded by making the following demands:

  • enter into substantive talks with PCS over the principles and impact of their location and change proposals, sharing all planning assumptions with the union
  • subject their location and change plans to parliamentary scrutiny
  • open an internal HMRC-wide consultation, alongside an external public consultation, which will inform further planning decisions and the parliamentary scrutiny
  • confirm that no action will be taken on implementing the locations proposals until the internal, along with the public, consultation has concluded and parliament has taken a view on the outcome.

We made these demands because we believe that the plans to reduce the estate to 13 regional centres and four specialist sites are deeply flawed and untested, driven by the approaching end of the disastrous STEPS contract rather than any demonstrable business case.

Both the 2016 staff survey and the survey PCS carried out for our Building an Uncertain Future report published last autumn showed that most HMRC staff – the people that deliver the business – believe that these plans will damage the core mission of the department, i.e. collecting taxes and enforcing compliance.

In January this year the National Audit Office (NAO) released its report on HMRC’s estate plans.  That report showed that PCS’ concerns were well founded - HMRC is indeed building a future on weak foundations.

The NAO report got the headlines and the attention of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), but a further report from the Treasury committee into Making Tax Digital published the same week was equally significant and contained criticisms of HMRC’s plans that shared a common theme with the NAO – one of a department going too far, too fast and without actually testing if it was really going in the right direction before it set off.

Your union has consistently challenged the rationale for the BoF model, and the evidence we submitted to the PAC used the data we have gathered from branches that demonstrates the impact of lost skills and coverage as the closures roll forward.

We are working with our branches to develop PCS’ alternative strategy for HMRC, setting out the weaknesses we see in the BoF plans and challenging HMRC to stop, listen, and learn from the concerns its own staff have been trying to get heard since this particular “conversation” began.

Lorna Merry

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