My thanks to a loyal reader who has advised me that HMRC are changing their postal arrangements.
Specifically incoming post will in due course be scanned by EDM Group, a third party company that is one of the UK’s largest information management providers. The three year contract is worth £4M.
HMRC expect that the bulk of incoming post will be handled in this way by March 2015.
In theory this will speed up HMRC's response time to taxpayers' letters.
I wonder if employees of EDM who handle taxpayers' letters will be asked to sign the Official Secrets Act?
Here is the text of the HMRC manager briefing note:
Changing the way we handle post in HMRC
Manager Briefing – April 2014
HMRC is changing the way we handle customer post, following a successful three-month trial. Later this year, we will introduce a new system of scanning incoming post, enabling us to send it digitally around the country in an instant and respond to customer correspondence more quickly.
Last month a contract was signed with an external provider called EDM Group. Work is now under way to agree an implementation plan – with Personal Tax and Estates & Support Services (ESS) colleagues working with the new provider over the next 8-10 weeks to agree timescales.
It is clear that people currently handling post will be impacted by this change, but we will not have the details until an implementation plan is agreed. Rather than wait until we have all these answers, we want to let affected staff know about this important change now. We will provide further details in the coming weeks as our implementation plans develop, through a series of monthly dial-ins and further face-to-face announcements.
This briefing is to provide you with information to update your post centre staff of the changes ahead.
Please familiarise yourself with the information in this briefing. You will need to deliver these messages face to face to everyone in your location who carries out post centre duties or whose role is mainly taken up in the physical movement of post.
This message should be delivered in person on Tuesday, 8 April at 10.30.
Similar messages will be delivered by ESS to Regional Post Room staff at the same time.
An intranet article outlining the changes will be published on the HMRC newsroom on Wednesday 9 April.
· Following a successful trial, HMRC will start scanning incoming customer post in June 2014.
· The new system will enable us to move incoming post around HMRC more quickly and efficiently – replying to our customers sooner.
· It will be introduced in a phased way – starting on a small scale to test the system and how we use it.
· We expect the bulk of our incoming post to be managed in this way by March 2015. HMRC will no longer sort and physically move post around our locations
· Our scanning provider, EDM Group, will scan the post and provide a digital image within 48 hours of receipt, which we can then send on to any of our offices in an instant.
· This change is no reflection on the hard work and dedication of people handling post across HMRC – both in PT Post Centres and ESS Regional Post Rooms.
· We will provide further details in the coming weeks as our implementation plans develop, through a series of monthly dial-ins and through further face-to-face meetings.
I am here to talk to you about a change to the way HMRC handles customer post.
As you probably know, last summer we ran a three-month trial to look at scanning the mail we receive, involving teams in Cardiff and Portsmouth.
The trial showed that, by scanning post, we can reply to customer letters more quickly and efficiently because we can move it around our offices in an instant. We can send it straight to the desktops of the teams who work it, without the need to sort it or transport it.
Following that trial, HMRC has decided to introduce the scanning system for most of our incoming post.
Last month we signed a contract with an external provider called EDM Group, who we are now working with to agree a timeline for introducing the new system across the Department.
This new system means that we will not need to physically handle post on the same scale as we do now, and I’m sorry to say that this will have an impact on your roles.
I’d like to stress that this change is absolutely no reflection on the good work and dedication of people handling post across HMRC – both in PT Post Centres and ESS Regional Post Rooms. It is simply about us finding ways for digital technology to help us answer customer correspondence more quickly and in the most efficient way possible.
You will understandably want to know what this means for this team. We are now working with Estates and Support Services (ESS) and the new provider (EDM) to develop a detailed plan for when the new system will be implemented.
While I don’t have many details to provide at this point, I wanted to come today to let you know that a contract had been signed, to share the information I do have, and to let you know when we will know more.
From the planning work done so far, we agreed last week that the new scanning system will start from the middle of June this year – on a very small scale in our Portsmouth and Newcastle offices for the first few months so we can test the system and how we use it.
Teams outside these locations will not see any changes to the way they work over the first few months. Other sites will then start to come on board from the autumn, and by this time next year we expect most of our incoming post to be handled through scanning.
We will be firming up the timescales and details over the next two months, and will keep you updated through a series of monthly dial-ins and through more face-to-face visits like this. I understand that next week you will be sent an invite to the first of these dial-ins – scheduled for early May when there will be more information to provide.
I know that this news will be very disappointing for everyone here, and that you will be worried about what the future holds for you. I’m sorry that I don’t have the answers today to the understandable questions you will have.
The rest of HMRC will learn about this news tomorrow, when an intranet article will be published, but we wanted those of you most directly affected to hear this news from us first and personally.
You will have many questions today I’m sure, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
As I’ve said, I won’t have all the information you are looking for, but as soon as the full implementation details have been worked out, I will come back to explain them to you fully, along with the options available to everyone.
Questions and answers
This Q&A is help you answer some of the questions people might have on the day. It is not for printing and sharing at this stage, while much of the detail is not known.
A more detailed Q&A will be published in a few weeks when more is known about the timescales for implementation and what this means for individual teams.
Post Centre staff might think of further questions in the days following your announcement. These should be asked through the management chain, and in the monthly dial-ins.
- Why are we scanning post when we provide a good service to our customers already?
The new service will help us deal with the 15 million items of post we receive in Personal Tax more quickly and efficiently, as we won’t need to send the post around the UK and around our buildings.
We will be able to reply to customer letters sooner, and the new system will also improve the service we provide to our customers on the phone, as advisers talking to our customers will be able to see the post on-screen and confirm where we are in dealing with it.
Being able to move post around instantly will help our flexible working too, enabling us to have teams working on phones or post according to demand. In the future, our phone advisers may be able to respond to post while the customer is on the phone.
Scanning is not new to HMRC and is already in use in other parts of the business. For example, Enforcement and Compliance have been using Caseflow Scanning for some time.
- Why has HMRC chosen an outsourced supplier in preference to an in-house solution?
The Proof of Concept (trial) held during April to July 2013 tested the feasibility of an in-house scanning solution and established the cost of providing the service within HMRC.
It is a government requirement to explore the best value for money (VFM) option and to do this an external market engagement exercise was also carried out. A comparison between the two demonstrated that an external supplier offers the best VFM option.
- Is this all about saving money?
No. Although, like all Departments, HMRC does need to make savings and digitisation will help to reduce post handling costs. The main benefits will be in the improvements in customer service and security.
- I work in a local post room. Does this mean I no longer have a job?
Scanning will be introduced gradually so the effects will be felt over 2014/15, and mainly during the second half of the year. As there will be a lot less post to handle, this will mean that we need fewer post centres. At the moment we are working with ESS colleagues on the implementation plan, and we will let you know what this means for your PT Post Centre as soon as we possibly can (we expect to know by June).
- I work in a local post room. What options are available to me?
This change will mean that the volumes of incoming post received in the RPRs will reduce significantly over a period of time. As our work reduces we will need fewer RPRs than we have now. Working out the impacts is complex and we’re doing that work now. Until that’s completed we can’t say exactly when and where the ESS RPR’s will be in the future but we will have a clearer view by June.
- When will the implementation plan be worked out, so you can tell me what it means for me?
We expect to have an implementation plan in the next 8-10 weeks, and we will be holding monthly dial-ins to keep people up to date as plans develop.
- What will happen to outbound post in the future?
There is a separate project looking at introducing a Central Print Service (CPS) for outgoing mail. We will also keep you informed of these developments over the coming months.
- Will you be able to scan all mail from HMRC customers?
No. Particularly bulky or fiddly correspondence such as business records and receipts will not be scanned. We have also made the decision not to include correspondence in cases that require extra security. These items will be classed as exceptions and we are in the process of setting up a small Exceptions Team. We don’t know where this team will be located at this stage.
- What is happening to AA grade staff in HMRC?
The AA grade is a valued one within HMRC, and we have no intention of removing it entirely from the organisation. But, we have known for some time that making changes to the way we deliver our services, including far greater digitisation, will mean there will be far less clerical work available for people at this grade. In some lines of business we already have too many AAs for the work available.
We’ve tried to reduce the AA grade across HMRC as a whole. In July 2012 we recognised that around 5,000 of HMRC’s approximately 7,000 AAs were in locations where the Department needed AO grades. That’s why we launched the AA to AO Departmental promotion exercise, which enabled us to promote 1,883 people, with another 1,000 still in the promotion pool. We’ve also not been replacing AAs as they leave the Department, unless there has been a business need to do so. And, we’ve already run an exit scheme for around 400 AA-grade staff in Debt Management and Banking.
In PT, as part of our future planning, we have commissioned a review into future AA roles, our need for those roles and where those roles will be required. This review is not complete and no decisions have been taken but we will let you know what this may mean for the AA grade in PT by September.
10. Will you run another AA-AO promotion exercise?
Where we have AO vacancies we will promote people who are on the AA-AO reserve list straight away. We will then see whether we have further vacancies and offer Temporary Promotions. We also plan to run a wider AA-AO promotion exercise in May.
- Have the unions been consulted about this announcement?
PCS are aware of our plans and we’ll continue to work closely with them.
Tax does have to be taxing.
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