Thursday 14 March 2013

HMRC To Close 281 Enquiry Centres

As per Karen Barrett:
"HMRC to close its 281 enquiry centres in 2014. Looks like the system is about to get more confusing!"
As per the BBC the closures will put 1,300 jobs at risk, although HMRC aims to deploy these staff elsewhere.

The centres (currently used by 2.5 million people per annum) will be replaced by a telephone service and home visits (better put the kettle on!), which in theory will save HMRC £13M per annum.

Lin Homer is upbeat, as per the Telegraph:
"HMRC will provide a more modern and accessible service that will target the right support to customers who need it, where and when they want it.” 
Problem solved!

Tax does have to be taxing.

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  1. Makes you wonder why they had them in the first place and why they were called "contact centres"!

    Still, we can all be sure that the "customer experience" will be enhanced as a result.

    HMRC are brilliant, staff are even diverted from other duties to answer calls and yet the system does not evidence any improvement whatsoever (if you are a "customer").

    Can't wait for gagging clauses to be banned in the wider civil service, in post and on severence that would blow the lid off into outer space if the little people were able to feel safe and raise issues without fear of improper reaction or punishment.


    Quite simply because the sheer amount of money wasted within HMRC by mismanagement in all its forms is huge.

    1. If, by happy event, those within HMRC felt safe to blow the whistle on what has gone on in there over the past 10 years, money wasted, though not insignificant, would be well down the list of worries for those who have ruined what was once a model of good public service. There has been corruption founded on nepotism, self-promotion and preservation, cosy deals over posh dinners - the list is endless.

  2. They are not shutting the Contact Centres they are shutting the Enquiry Centres.

  3. I thought the enquiry centres had originally been called contact centres for some reason. Whichever way you look at it "customers" will lose the ability to call-in for a face to face enquiry.

    Anyway will we now see claims by HMRC to have "recruited" 1300 additional call (contact) centre staff? A phone and a PC being all that is required in terms of hardware, along with a chair and a phone of course.

  4. The fundamental dishonesty of Homer and the rest can be gauged from this:

    "The tax authority said that the number of people using the Enquiry Centres across the UK had halved from five million in 2005-06 to 2.5 million in 2011-12."

    Of course it has. That's what will tend to happen when you either, a) close some of them down altogether, b) move some of those remaining to out-of-town sites which are largely inaccessible by public transport, and c) cut the number of days a week those which are left are actually open.

    On top of this, people will have to call the standard Contact Centres and have to hope that the (undertrained, constantly-pushed-for-time) operators will be able to tell that they are in need of extra assistance, so that they can then....refer them to another team of operators.

    1. You forgot d) that even when you get an appointment, hmrc guidance tells the enquiry centre staff to shove the customer on a phone to the contact centre. That won't be counted as a proper appointment I'm sure.

  5. From reading the comments on Yahoo it seems the public is against these closures hopefully a good campaign could see this stupid decision overturned but somehow I feel the deal is already done and no matter what the consultation, MP's or public think or say.

  6. This year 13 Enquiry Centres in the North East will close and a pilot scheme involving the use of other facilities and organizations will take place.
    Once this succeeds the other 268 will close in Apr 2014.

    It has already been declared a success and that the offices once closed will NOT reopen (this is from the horse mouth).

    So HMRC customers can complain all they want, but the decision has been made that its a success already.

    Please have a thought for the approx 1300 staff affected by this.

  7. Over the last six years or so they have made it impossible for anyone to visit a tax office. Firstly members of the public cannot not been seen without an appointment. To get an appointment they have to spend days calling the contact centres on 0845 numbers to get through. Then if they manage to make an appointment they have to be able to fit it in within the two days their local EC happens to be open.

    As a lot of the work is centralised they often don't get seen by an adviser anyway, but are pushed towards the phones to call from one office to another office, something they could have done from home if a) it was possible to get through and b) if it were not so expensive.

    Tax payers who don't get past the bouncers, sorry I mean floorwalkers, to actually see someone and only get to use a phone, are not being counted statistically as have visited the Enquiry Centre, neither are all the other cross customers turned away because they have not made an appointment. Then there is of course the many tax payers who turn up on the Enquiry Centre closed days and can't get in at all. This is how they have managed the figures to make it look like there much less demand for their use. Just another step towards making privatisation easier.

    Anyway they need the space used by the Enquiry Centres to cram more displaced staff in from the offices they closed completely.

  8. I am one of them and we all know this is a done deal the way they have kept this quiet right until the day of announcement proves what type of people the management are as I said above no matter how the consultation goes they will close them.

  9. I can imagine that the more greedy so-called accountants
    (without any qualification) that HMRC staff have no choice but to deal with (regardless of how much they rip off their clients simply because they have a signed authority in place) must be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of IREC closures. Less direct HMRC help means they can heavily capitalise on weary/wary individuals.

    Those 'accountants' are as bad as Gov't Insulation Grant/PPI recovery salesmen
    in my book.


  10. If, as I suspect, TPTB (the power that be) have become aware that the voters have had enough of this duplicity, lying and just downright criminality in public office (as per the debate today on NHS/whistleblowing etc) then there may well be a form of U-turn in the offing with a few IiP (idiots in power) flying through the revolving door!

    When it comes to the general public and HMRC we have reached a turning point and the "customer" is waking up to the reality of years of bad service and crap management.

    You can only push the sheeple so far peeps...

  11. And then, as if by magic, the call centres are privatised.

    This is the UK Tax System that these halfwits are messing about with. Accountability does not figure in their pea sized brains, merely a desire to drain as much from the system as they can before they must move on.

    There is a muttering on the internet that MP's of various parties have begun to realise what is actually going on in there. If someone takes ownership then things will become more interesting overnight as that which is hidden is revealed.

  12. The staff in the Enquiry Centres actually want to see the public and are actually the most exprienced and knowledgeable staff HMRC have. Most of them if they can travel will be found jobs answering the phone from a script and being penalised if they try to use their wider experience to actually solve someones problem.

  13. Next to go will be the back offices where post is worked, Francis Maude is already on record of saying that nothing that can be worked on paper (ie) letters or forms can't be done by digital means cheaper.
    he is determined to get rid of "Post Factories" in the Civil Service in all departments.
    Many back offices are at present being trained to answer phones because the powers that be are moving contact centre staff on to dealing with the debacle coming that will be RTI, and the calls answered targets have to be met this year.

  14. Francis Maude has not got a clue.
    Digital is not cheaper and the hidden development and contract costs of IT in HMRC are legendary - don't forget it costs hundreds to get a pc moved, so that every time you close an office you pay to have the PC removed. Reconfigured offices have to be refurnished and brought back to operational ability at huge costs. As for the developmental and capital/rental costs, well, even the PAC won't get a truthful answer, so don't bother asking.

    So lets be clear on the one point, the public want face to face, the staff want it and commons sense, remember that, suggests it works.

    If you squeeze your postal system so that it does not work, and if you close your face to face enquiry centres then all you have left is a choice between "IT" and telepathy!

    10 yrs down a line someone has a brilliant idea for improving the custome experience and also the professional image of "The Revenue" and suggests experimenting with human to human contact and lo and behold it not only works it is far more effective than the failed "IT" systems that were so poorly designed hacking and attacking were simple to undertake and even politicians were losing money from their accounts so something had to be done.

    Sorry, dreaming again.

  15. I would like to see how Homer's claim that each Tax Enquiry Centre call cost £152 was calculated. If that figure is correct and 2.5 million taxpayers visited Enquiry centres in 2011-2012 then the total cost of running these offices would be in the region of £380 million per annum. Given that total I would be expecting annual savings far larger than the £13 million that HMRC are predicting.

    The sums look even stranger when you consider that the 1300 staff working in these centres are unlikely to be earning much above the average national wage of about £25,000. By my calculation the total cost of staff wages can not be more than £33 million and even adding on Employers NIC and Employers Pension Contributions will not take the amount over £50 million. One then has to ask where the other £330 million is being spent. It seems an awful lot to be paying for some office space, a few PCs, a server, some printers and a few telephones.

    Ken. Someone really ought to ask HMRC for a break down of the figures

    1. She said each of the visits "from people who genuinely needed face-to-face hep" cost £152, and claimed that these were 16% of total visits.

      So that's 400,000 x 152 = 60m.

      Presumably dealing with the ones who didn't "genuinely" need f2f help has been treated as part of the cost of dealing with those who do. I also assume they reckon the cost of the new service will be about £47m.

      It looks like they reckon the savings will predominantly come from not having to deal f2f with 2.1m people who allegedly don't "genuinely" need it.

      I agree, though, there are a lot of assumptions in there, so like you I would be interested to see whether they stack up, particularly because they seem to have decided to do this before running the pilot!

      Stew G