RegulationNov 12 2015

HMRC confirms local office closures to take place

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HMRC confirms local office closures to take place

HM Revenue and Customs will be closing 137 local offices by 2027, it has confirmed to FTAdviser.

Its statement reads: “Offices will be released, for instance, as lease breaks arise or at the end of the PFI contract with Mapeley in 2021.

“HMRC shared the broad outline of the transition with its staff on 12 November – including potential office closure dates and the likely outcomes for individuals working in each office.”

The closures come as part of a 10-year modernisation programme which will see 13 new regional centres created over the next five years.

The first new regional centre will be opened in 2016-17, with the others following between 2017 and 2021

Speaking to FTAdviser earlier today, a spokesperson for HMRC said, “We are informing our staff about the future direction of our estate. We have been clear for some time that this will mean fewer, but larger and more modern offices that will help us to deliver better services to our customers and bring in more tax revenue for public services.

“These changes are part of an ongoing modernisation programme that began several years ago and will take place over the next ten years.”

The closure of the offices could potentially risk the jobs of thousands of HMRC workers, although it denies this is the case.

A second spokesperson for HMRC told FTAdviser, “We don’t have a figure for job losses as we will try to take everybody into the regional centres. Where some can’t come, we’ll talk to them about leaving or moving to another employer. We will talk to individual staff about how we can help of they want to move, but this is early days.”

He did, however, confirm that the restructure means there will be no tax office in the south-west of England, leaving areas such as Bristol with little or no coverage.

The news comes following a number of cuts to the service. Last year, HMRC closed the last of its 281 walk-in-centres, with staff levels having halved to 56,000.

Only last week (4 November) concerns were raised by The Public Accounts Committee over the poor handling of the 60m calls a year received by HMRC with the average call waiting time having risen from two minutes and 44 seconds (March 2014) to 14 minutes and 22 seconds (March 2015).

At the time, Meg Hillier, chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, said, “HMRC must rapidly improve its customer service – previously described by the PAC as abysmal and now even worse – to the extent it could be considered a genuine threat to tax collection.”

In the past financial year, HMRC has cut £210m from its costs, having made a total saving of £991m in the past four years.