HMRC Is Shite

HMRC Is Shite
Dedicated to the taxpayers of Britain, and the employees of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC), who have to endure the monumental shambles that is HMRC.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011



My thanks to a loyal reader who has advised me that HMRC Directorate appears to have lost faith in some of its management in at least one HMRC centre.

It seems that in at least one HMRC centre, control over the people survey (or rather the follow up/response to the results of the people survey) has been moved from management to the Directorate.

Senior Management Teams (SMTs) are local management groups usually led by a G6 or G7 looking after Senior Officers (SOs). I am advised that SMTs have failed to improve engagement scores in their areas, so the response to the people survey has been handed to the Directorate.

This change in control implies that ExComm have lost faith in the management on the ground (in at least one centre).

The fact that control has been passed up the line at least shows that ExComm are trying to address the issues raised in the last survey. However, will this change in control actually lead to an improvement, or is this merely a sacrifice of SMTs to appease the gods?

In the event that the Directorate fail, will they be sacrificed as well?

Serious questions need to be asked as to why SMTs were unable to "engage" with local staff and work with them for an improvement?

Does this mean that Pacesetter (the sacred totem of ExComm) is in effect flawed and failing?

Feel free to comment and share your views and experiences.

More will follow.

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  1. "The fact that control has been passed up the line at least shows that ExComm are trying to address the issues raised in the last survey. However, will this change in control actually lead to an improvement, or is this merely a sacrifice of SMTs to appease the gods?"

    Ken - you must have had a very good Bank Holiday weekend. You certainly seem to be in an unusually charitable frame of mind. Surely this is nothing more than an attempt to wrest control of the survey closer to the Senior Managers. I think you need look no further than Lamey's statement to see how Excom see the staff survey - as a tool to further beat staff.

    But I am out of there now so I will let those at the ?????? have their say (I was going to say "coal face" but somehow it does not seem adequate).

  2. LOL:)

    anom, to be honest the fact that they have done this (to my view) indicates that at least they recognise that there is a problem (like an alcoholic admitting that he has a problem).

    As to whether this is the "correct solution" to the problem remains to be seen.

    Or maybe I am just being very naive here?

    Folks feel free to tell me I am wrong, and why I am wrong:)


  3. Of course PaceSetter is failing.

    It's never worked in the first place!

  4. Previously an analogy has been drawn between HMRC and "The Emperor's New Clothes".
    There is more than a grain to this if you add in political rhetoric, geekspeak and Pacesetter evangelical workings.
    Most people know that the sychophants that populate the management structure from bottom to top manage to serve the process well and back it up with those useless whiteboards and statistics.
    What is clear though is that the lid is about to blow off the whole sorry mess.
    In response to your question though Ken, whilst I don't believe you are wrong in your statement I think you left a bit out:-
    An alcoholic has first to accept he/she has a problem and then want to do somehing about it. The old C&E was riddled with the problem, it was an occupational hazard that was ignored by managers who may well have suffered from the same problem, been unable or unwilling to do anything about it or merely have been happy to sweep it under the carpet. A lot of old style Customs employees whether uniformed grades, OCX types or simply ex. servicemen who had seen too much death and destruction passed away due to this issue.
    Luckily times have changed, and whilst still a problem is not the worst issue facing staff.
    That brings us full circle, they don't really care because they don't have to and a cynic would suggest that the current motivation to do something is linked to the obscene salaries and bonuses and a desire to protect.
    Longwinded answer and explanation - Yes
    Wrong - No


  5. 31 May 2011 12:20

    I agree with the sweeping it under.

    As Customs officer I witnessed personalty problems from individuals which effected the whole team and in several cases resulted in colleagues leaving.
    People were left to try and resolve the situation themselves, with a complete lack of involvement from Senior Officer grade and above.
    When things became critical certain people were promoted, not on merit but in order to remove them from a team or an area.
    A lot of the problems with HMRC today stems from a lack of communication.
    Mangers meed to be trained to learn manners, a little bit of decorum, and take action when issues evolve rather than let them fester and destroy morale.

    That lack amateur style of management from the old Customs and Excise mixed with (in my opinion anyway), an agressive bullying micro management style from the IR is what makes it what it is today.

  6. Thank you for thus post Ken.

    There is indeed trouble at the mill. There is a new PSA leadership programme "temporarily" that includes EO's and HEOs. I think they are being trained right now. One turned up to work today and is off their normal duties.

    Looks like HMRC gave realised that ExComm messages mean nowt if local mgt don't execute the plan. I will wait and see.

    Good post though, something is definitely up!

  7. This was from early 2010

    Another survey has been completed and HMRC are still rock bottom!

    What happened to the "Engagement" committees? If results are worse, where dud the failure(s) come from?

  8. This was from Strathie that you quoted in April

    We're under no illusion about the scale of the challenge - especially given the results of the most recent surveys. That's why it's so important that you take part.

    An engaged workforce is a more productive workforce and the very best performers, whether it's the London Ambulance Service, John Lewis Partnership or Tesco, recognise this.

    In all of these organisations, leaders and managers know that positively encouraging people to perform at their best is the most important thing that they do.

    David MacLeod calls this a "blindingly obvious but nevertheless often-overlooked truth" in his report into employee engagement (pdf), published by the department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

    This is the approach we are adopting here in HMRC. It's not unique to us but it's a tried and tested route to success. While it is clear we have some considerable way to go, we have already seen some improvements in parts of HMRC.

    For the Department's leadership, it is about learning from these successes- finding out why so me teams are so much more engaged in the Department's goals and motivated to deliver their part in our success than many others.

    We need to ensure we create a similar environment across the Department, so everyone feels as motivated and engaged.

    I feel I should stress that when we talk about engagement here in HMRC, we aren't talking simply about the results of the People Survey. Neither are we talking about happiness."

    Says it all, cough, cough.

    Management at local level obviously don't get it :)

  9. Management at local level do not get it, that's for sure.

    You need to look at the self perpetuating band higher up the dung heap who control the fiefdoms or directorates - depending on your perspective.

    If it is true that Straithie & Co. are not being told the truth because of an impemeable barrier presented by these strata then the sooner HMIC is called in and not hoodwinked this time the better.

    Whosoever investigates the wrongdoings needs an open book and a free hand rather than being told what the answer is in advance.

    HMIC could do a good job, but you would have to guard against that which is sometimes referred to as "undue influence" from those within...and don't ask, just use your understanding of what goes on to read between the lines on this one! Join the dots co-conpirators to see the bigger picture.
    Ken possibly knows this one but is waiting for the right time to float it?

  10. I posted this earlier today on Friday's thread which now seeems dormant. I repeat it because once more there are comments making accusations of wrong-doing and hoping that the "chickens will soon be home to roost" etc. It still seems that nobody inside or outside the department wants or dares load the smoking gun. WHY?

    Many contributers to this site refer to cover ups and malpractice within HMRC. Private Eye actually makes very damning claims with seemingly a a lot of confidence behind them. However NOTHING happens. It is as if no one cares.
    I simply do not understand why?

    Take the issue with Hartnett. I do not know whether or not he has failed to maximise tax take from the Corporations referred to. It certainly seems to be something that warrants investigation which should involve little more than talking to the Inspectors who he is alleged to have "pushed aside".
    Notwithstanding this though it is the apparent impunity with which he and those that should "manage" him seem to look on his wining and dining with "customers". Surely this should be absolutely forbidden? It cannnot serve any purpose other than to create the climate for suspicion. Why on earth has Cameron, Gershon or A N other not told him to stop? why are HMRC management seemingly untouchable?

  11. The real problem is that the staff just didn't submit the correct answers, and so ExCon have to cut out some of the survey results to make it leaner and therefore in line with their plans.

  12. ExCom are worried. The People Survey is all part of the statistic gathering to which the devote their lives. Getting a bad mark in this is the one blemish on their otherwise perfect score in the Capability Study (ie: the perfect mark they got from the head of the Borders Agency...)

    But they don't care about the staff. Just the mark. So they have doubled the number of pointless topdown management achievement, and redoubled their pacesetter efforts. Because they are perfect, ExCom is certain of success. All they need is to do more of the same and "their people" will share this Truth.

    A fish rots from the head down. Actually, this starts higher than ExCom. Every department is up to the same nonsense. But don't believe that ExCom is going to turn out to be the hero of this piece, even in the smallest way.

    The managers do their best to please their superiors. If they are vicious and ignorant, they are just following orders.

  13. "The managers do their best to please their superiors. If they are vicious and ignorant, they are just following orders."

    I will try and remember that next time my missus comes home in tears and adjust my boot in her team leaders arse accordingly.

  14. Whooooeeee!

    Eee oop everyone and pay attention...

    Now that some stones are being overturned what is crawling out?

    Dark slimy evil things that do not like the light of day.

    One or 2 posters need to accept that there is no smoke without fire. Just because the brass and the politico's are not seeing or hearing very well is no reason to give up.

    As has been said before HMRCISSHITE
    if you doubt this you may benefit from therapy! many of those who make "accusations" are too afraid to go any further, that in itself should indicate to the average person on the street that something is deeply wrong at the heart of this. Without the likes of Ken, Private Eye, Guido Fawkes and a few others none of this would be even known let alone up for discussion.
    There are a few brave individuals prepared to go the extra mile and see this out in the open. All that remains is for Government to wise up and do something, more than the standard enquiry, perhaps they would undertake their own staff survey - now there's a challenge, lets see how that pans out, HMRC would come last in a one horse race!
    Not long now?
    Just watch how many managers "ventilate" in the next couple of months it won't surprise many at the workface. Just pray they take Pacesetter and the whiteboards with them and those that are left realise the damage they have done or supported.

    Then we rebuild whatever is left to collect and protect the tax base - SEEMPLES!

  15. "Serious questions need to be asked as to why SMTs were unable to "engage" with local staff and work with them for an improvement?"

    Because the problems causing low scores don't come from the SMTs (in most cases). It comes from low wages, staff cuts, having to travel further to work for less money, not being allowed to provide a service, losing your pension and having your contract torn up and rewritten by Tory millionaires and from generally being everybodys whipping boy. Not much a local G^ or G7 can do about that.

    The rest of the complaints come from top down process. Passed down from the Directorates. I don't see what good passing it to them will do.

  16. @21.29

    "...and having your contract torn up and rewritten by Tory millionaires"

    I agree with your argument, and I'm not standing up for the Tories for one minute, but the above policy was put firmly in place by G Brown.

  17. All govt depts bar the NHS and DFID are facing cuts. the HMRC results were in the crapper in 2008 and 2009 as well. As the previous poster has pointed out, there was a Govt of Labour millionaires in charge then, if iu do not believe me, look at the net worth of the last cabinet!

    Why were HMRC results worse that other depts? Why are all measures to improve failing? How will more money for staff improve pacesetter? How will more money for staff improve Band o's and above?

    It's the organisation stupid! As Bill Clinton's campaign team almost said!

    Jeez... I work there as well, things have been crap for ages. Look at what taxpayers are saying for crying out loud.

    I give up with some people here, I really do.

  18. As the quote from the famous film went something like this "truth , you can't handle the truth"
    EX-Com have no plan B it's Pacesetter or nothing, Pacesetter is a follow on from Lean working introduced by David Varney who had to oversee the Gershon report and the first tranche of 12,000 job losses (upped by another 12,000) by Paul Gray.
    We are seeing deskilling on a massive scale and reliance on automated systems (NPS)where huge reviews are being automated as the staff that used to do open cases, coding reviews have now gone.
    The powers that be are hoping that the system will be up to speed within two years, then we'll see more job losses.
    With automation on such a scale plus realtime coding being brought in as well, i can see HMRC adopting the US format where you have a small core of permanant staff supplemented by fixed terms casual staff for busy periods.lean,pacesetter is all about" more for less", more work from less staff as constant push for higher output..not a nice place to be at the minute.

  19. At last, someone calling a spade a spade.

    Why is Pacsetter so vital for the HMRC strategic vision?

    The above post nailed it. 20% cut at HMRC over the next 3 years. Although some money from "efficiency" savings comes back (900 million) to make the overall cut 15% by 2015. But that 900 mil is earmarked for compliance and enforcement.

    "Back Office" functions that include HR and "Processing" are to face cuts of over 30% by 2015!

    Processing is SA paper returns, Claims, CIS, manual working of PAYE etc. Basically anything that makes up the current Customer Operations.

    And how will this 30% be delivered? Job Losses via ...... Ta dadaaaaa......

    Pacesetter efficiencies!

    But.... Engagement in the gutter, so no one buys into pacesetter... So no efficiencies.

    Welcome to fantasy strategy, ladies and gentlemen.

    As has been alluded in earlier posts, why don't ExCom realise Pacesetter is manure?

    Answer, because the stats being peddled by local mgt up the chain are manipulated to fit the perceived target. If you say something is wrong, go through the 3 cs, the SMT will ignore and keep pushing the target even if the results fit HMRC and especially the Taxpayer are negative.

    Fecking Morons! If pacesetter truly was a vehicle to empower the little guy, none of this would happen. Pacesetter exists to be manipulated so non entity junior and middle managers can play at soldiers and move imaginary armies of AOs and AAs ( and now Band O's on wirklist teams) around their battlefields.

  20. 900 mil is not believed to be an extra 900 mil added, it is believed to be 900 mil not slashed which is a wee bit different.

    There won't be "additional" staff, i.e. the headcount overall won't rise, the staff will be moved around from other areas. So as has beeen said before, the deckchairs are being rearranged!

    The old Customs Department was heavily criticised for its mobile approach to staffing i.e. remove all staff from an area, or country and then identify the resulting "hot-spot" of risk, send in the troops for a "blitz", I believe that was the phrase, get lots of results (rocket science?) thereby proving your policy works and ignore the truth and additional costings...only trouble was it was costing an effing fortune and eventually caught the attention of a committee which failed to understand why something that cost extra renumeration to buy "flexibility" and hotel costs, let alone some staff purchasing homes abroad, and those car hire costs and those hotel costs and those airline costs and the costs of all the cancellations, WTF!
    And what are they introducing again, yep you guessed it, the money-go-round, sponsored by the "customer centric experience" of the taxpayer.
    Perhaps someone has already asked which is the worst performing directorate, if so, drill down to the workface and see the cess-pits at the bottom! Performance isn't all people Survey results, sometimes its the hidden figures that count, well not if you omit to do the math!
    You are seeing the twighlight of the dinosaurs, thankfully.

  21. Anon at 09.30

    I did nit say that 900 mill was extra u said it comes back. I believe we are on the same page and I wholeheartedly agree with your post.

    I gave only met a few ex customs staff, so my view if mismanagement us exclusively ex IR. And we could talk for hours exchanging horror stories about "plans" and "strategies" that went turs up in our respective departments.

    Unfortunately, no matter what our heritage organisation, we are all being mismanaged together and we can't turn the clock back to the way things were. And from where I was, it wasn't a bed if roses back then either. It was better, but not great.

    Regarding the worst Directorate... That would be Cust Ops if I am not mistaken. It has had a change of Director from the last competency review iirc.

  22. "900 mil is earmarked for compliance and enforcement"

    Can just imagine the pacesetter arse licks all scrambling over each other to get into compliance and enforcement over the next few years, sinking as many of their colleagues as possible along the way :)

  23. Which site was this?

  24. @10:11

    Not just Cust OPS, the whole of personal tax has virtually been replaced.

    Bernadette Kenny, Chris Hopson & Simon Smith have all gone.

    The common factor here being NPS, quite suprised this hasn't made more headlines, most other Governmental IT failures that waste billions usually do!

  25. If I were a cynical man, I’d say the staff survey results (and the resulting fallout) are exactly what has been planned. We can then get to a stage where HMRC can formally be designated by all as ‘not fit for purpose’.

    The only way the government (and sections of the media) will have us believe is the way out is to bring in (more of) the private sector. Outsource the most straightforward and profitable work e.g. demanding money with menaces from old age pensioners etc and leave the rest to casuals earning minimum wage.

    Perhaps the odd audit or two could even be carried out by one of the ‘big 4'?

    Watch this space...

  26. @ 18.05

    Yes, I was thinking of Simon Smith but you are correct and quite right to point out this led from ExComm down.

    This was part of the level 1 to level 3 capability review. The groups of lower ranking SCS is being done now. Some directors are going to be booted out by july.

    I am fairly impressed with the change in attitude from ExComm, and I am not in any way enamoured with the organisation at all. There is a real problem between Directorates and Local SMTs and that is where the next set of departures will be. We now have Local SLTs as well, a grouping of G7s reporting into a G6 so someone is going to end up looking like a total plonker somewhere. Good.

    If this goes tits-up, exCom are screwed as there is nowhere else to go.