Friday 10 August 2012

HMRC To "Recruit" 1,000 New Staff

A mere two days ago I wrote yet another article about HMRC's telephone service standards, as if by magic HMRC have today issued a press release about the issue.

HMRC will recruit "up to" an additional 1,000 call centre staff, and "invest" "up to" an additional £34M by 2014 in an attempt to resolve the shite call handling performance.

A few observations:

1 Have HMRC not been reducing headcount over the past few years? Therefore to recruit "up to" 1,000 call centre staff seems to fly in the face of the ongoing headcount reduction.

2 Will the new staff be of the same skill and experience levels as those who have been dismissed? Ermmm.....I wouldn't think so!

3 The "investment" of "up to" £34M is in fact merely a redirection of resources. No new money is being put into the overall HMRC "pot"; as Homer says, this money is being taken from somewhere else in the organisation:
"I am reprioritising our resources to make this additional investment possible, without impacting our other core customer services."
Does anyone know where the money is being taken from?

Anyhoo, as to whether this is a genuine attempt to improve things (as opposed to a window dressing exercise) and indeed as to whether it really will work, only time will tell.

I guess by then Homer will have been promoted to another civil service department.

Here is the text of the press release in full:
"HMRC’s Chief Executive, Lin Homer, has announced the recruitment of up to 1,000 additional contact centre staff, to achieve a target of answering 90 per cent of all calls two years earlier than planned.

Mrs Homer has planned a £9 million additional investment this year and up to £25 million in 2013-14 to reach the call centre industry standard two years earlier than HMRC originally promised to Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee.

The decision to invest in extra staff was taken after close consultation with the Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery (JIHSD), which involves professional bodies and tax charities.

While call centre performance has improved significantly, from 48 per cent of all attempts handled in 2010/11 to 74 per cent in 2011/12, HMRC and JIHSD agreed that more needed to be done to provide a better calls service to customers.

Lin Homer said:

“Our contact centres receive around 60 million phone calls a year and how well we operate this service is of huge importance to our customers.

“It is vital that when customers call us for help their call is answered – and in a reasonable time. The feedback we get is that the quality of the advice we give when people get through is good, but we haven’t been answering enough calls.

“Our target of achieving contact centre industry standards of 90 per cent of calls answered first time is the right target. But after hearing the views of customers, stakeholder bodies and our own staff, we have speeded up our timetable for achieving it.

“I believe that we should be providing this important level of customer service sooner, not later, and investment of up to £34 million will enable us to do this by the end of March 2013 and sustain service levels during the next two years, rather than wait until 2015 to achieve the target. It will also enable us to reduce call waiting times drastically.

“I am reprioritising our resources to make this additional investment possible, without impacting our other core customer services.

“We remain committed to offering more online services and other ways of serving customers, which will ultimately reduce their need to call us. But in the meantime, this investment will give customers what they deserve – a much more responsive HMRC.

“I am enormously grateful to our stakeholder partners for their constructive advice, guidance and support in helping us to prioritise this additional investment in contact centres.

“I also want to thank our staff who work hard to deliver a good service and this investment will help them deliver to the standard they want to achieve.”

Exchequer Secretary David Gauke MP said:

“Although there has been an improvement in contact centre performance over the last couple of years, too many callers have faced unacceptable delays in getting through. I welcome this announcement which should result in a much improved service.”

Paul Aplin, Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales and a member of the Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery said;

“Today’s announcement shows how effective the engagement between HMRC and the key stakeholders involved in this initiative has been. There is more to do but this is a really encouraging step forward.”

Notes for Editors
1. HMRC has 17 contact centres based across the UK, employing 8,500 staff, handling around 60 million calls a year.

2. In 2010/11, HMRC answered 48% of all call attempts, and 74 per cent in 2011/12. Performance levels fluctuate throughout the year as a result of surges in calls during peak periods – such as Self Assessment filing and Tax Credits renewals. The industry standard is to answer 90 per cent of all call attempts.

3. The Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery involves the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG), Tax Aid and Tax Help for Older People (TOP).

4. The Project was set up in September 2011 in response to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee’s recommendation that HMRC should work closely with professional bodies, tax charities and businesses to improve the end to end experience of dealing with HMRC. Initiatives on which HMRC and JIHSD have worked together include:

  • A series of highly-successful visits to each others’ premises that helped both sides gain a better understanding of the issues from the others’ perspective
  • Working together on a series of improvements around post handling times, guidance on PAYE coding, and turnaround of repayment approvals. To the end of July, we have dealt with over 80% of PAYE/SA post within 15 working days compared to 67% for the whole of 2011/12.
  • Creating a single point of contact for bereaved PAYE and SA customers and improving services for bereaved customers.
  • Implementing a number of improvements around informing employers that their P35 end-of-year returns were late and subject to penalties.
  • Setting up an email pilot for 200 agents which has been well received.
  • Launching a postal tracker tool on the HMRC Website, enabling PAYE customers and agents to self-serve when a response can be expected."

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  1. Q. If, as is alleged by HMRC, they increased the hit rate in a year from 48% to 74% after having shed staff, messed around the call centres and the way calls are allocated - What would have happened if they had listened to the staff and public in the first place?
    Or won't Lean/Pacesetter allow for common sense?
    Something not quite right here but it is HMRC we are talking about.
    Do you get the impression that a few bonuses or even a damehood were at stake here?

  2. Who the bl***y h**l writes the HMRC press releases? Alastair Campbell?

    1. It's the same person who writes the scripts for the Muppett Show.
      What is amusing is that the general public or taxpayers (customers going out of fashion?) is that most people would no more trust a member of HMRC's management to tell the truth than Blair at his best talking of WMD or News of the World issues.
      (Tell it often enough, with conviction, anything becomes absorbed by those that cannot see)

  3. With any luck the funding will come from money saved by cancelling Caseflow, PaceSetter and other shite systems that don't work.

  4. I will say it again when Tax Credits migrates over to Universal Benefit the telephone issue will be resolved, this is why they 1,000 people will be on a fixed term contract, it is tax credits that takes up most of the phone calls to the contact centres I am surprised they haven't just trundled on through the next 18 months until UB starts. They way the numbers are dropping in Enquiry Centres at moment I wouldn't be surprised if the money comes from there we are all sitting in the EC's doing worklists when we could be seeing customers and reducing the telephone calls but they are obsessed with putting everyone on the telephone whatever the issue I have never seen the EC appointments so low as they are now yet they won't let us see customers.

  5. "3. The Joint Initiative on HMRC Service Delivery involves the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG), Tax Aid and Tax Help for Older People (TOP)."

    Just one question...

    Who's looking after the interests of the taxpayers who aren't represented in all this?

  6. Don't be fooled by the retoric, there's no new money, they are only robbing Peter to pay Paul, there will be some new jobs but the vast majority will be back room staff taken off working on post to answer phones.
    They have spent God know's how much revamping the telephones so we're now connected to the CC system.
    So telecalls will be answered more quickly but as we all know not everything can be done over the phone and writted confifmation or paperwork is required. so the post receipts will go sky high, then the calls will triple cos everyone will want to progres chase and it's back to Square One, thank God I retire shortly.

  7. I expect the money to come from savings in staff who have left. In call centre I work in we have lost nearly 1/3 of staff for various reasons with no recruitment for 2 years to replace them.

  8. Anyone heard anything about staff being diverted onto complaints full time? Apparently 5000 complaints waiting to be dealt with some dating back to May. Unhappy customers me thinks?

  9. No, you are all wrong, anyone reading the papers today will have seen the announcement that UK prisoners are to become call centre workers in their prisons.
    Now this could be interesting as obviously the "money" to recruit 1,000 additional staff (Lin Homer's words) must have been appropriated, allocated or whatever. But, prisoners cannot be paid at the minimum crap wage paid to call centre staff, can they?
    Prisoners also would appear to have a better standard of life at work than HMRC conscripts, the prisoners are getting 3 meals a day, free healthcare, free colour TV and access to phones for their own use regularly. It is believed that they even have conjugal visits (diversity includes LGBT community). They even have independant welfare visits from inspectors who can drop in at any time to see conditions etc.
    Then there are the real perks e.g. convicted and sentenced to 12 months, bloody hell if you have been on remand for 4 months they will let you walk out of court. HMRC conscripts are condemned to serving the full sentence.
    You couldn't dream it up!

  10. Its a possibility that these 1000 people will come for the redeployment pool, as these people HAVE to take any job offered, otherwise they will be classed as dismissing themselves ..

    1. So if what you say is possible, then they would not be additional recruited staff but those from the ever growing, redeployment "pot".
      This, again if true, would entail no recruitment costs i.e. commission to job creation money makers and relatively minimal retraining and a hearing test?
      Would these poor sods have to accept new "contracts" to allow them to work in these modern day equivalents of a sweatshop.
      Bloody Hell, imagine having to work in a Lean/Pacesetter environment enhanced by all the pressures of the worst of call centre practices. They will have the staff running to the middle of the floor and ring a bell to show they have reached their hourly targets soon.
      My sympathy people, try not to lose hope.

    2. I *think* if they are taken out of the redeployment pool, they cant be forced to sign a new contract BUT if something happens like they get promoted, then they will as their contract has changed.

      Hearing tests before you start are no longer compulsory ...

  11. Nobody will come out of any redeployment pools - sorry to tell you but if your in the pool your going to sink.
    Its pretty obvious the way they are bullying and intimidating their full rights civil servants out and not replacing them - but hold on theres plenty of TFTA appointments going on.
    Whys that then...
    Why employ people with pain in the arse rights when you can replace them with poor sods who you can treat like shit and get rid of at the drop off a hat and costs zilch to do so.
    If your on in the redeployment pool sorry but forget it... they didnt put you in the pool to swim your definitely there to sink.

  12. "HMRC’s Chief Executive, Lin Homer, has announced the recruitment of up to 1,000 additional contact centre staff, to achieve a target of answering 90 per cent of all calls two years earlier than planned."
    - Check this out. The grammar is wonderful. Calls will now be answered two years earlier! Was the previous target three years?

    Sorry. couldn't resist. And my sympathies for the Revenue call centre staff.

  13. There's more than a few vacancies available at G4S?
    Wonder what happened to all those so-called "vetted" recruits that were trained and accredited for the games but never turned up. Mind you a check by the SIA is next to useless, the image of the SIA is there to be googled.
    What's this got to do with this blog, dunno, which private security firm is replacing the civil servants guarding your assets then?

    1. Not sure if this has been raised before, but isn't Teresa Mays husband a director and major shareholder in G4S?
      Privatised Tax Collection? Its already started and not just in debt management its also been going on for years with the revolving door scenario from private to public to private and also the Mapeley scandal that will not go away.
      Never mind, short memories and the Olympic feelgood factor means everything is hunky dory.

  14. The 1000 jobs are all telephone tax credits inquiry jobs, fixed term until end of March 2013, with no permanent job at the end of term. People who were originally on telephones will be moved to personal tax jobs within the same sites. I know this as a fact.