The National Audit Office has today published a report that rubbishes HMRC's plans to reduce the costs of running its estate.
The NAO wants HMRC to adjust the scope and timings of the project, in order to reduce the risk of service disruption.
As of November 2016, HMRC was responsible for one million square metres of buildings across the country, making it the fourth-largest estate in central government. Annual estate running costs stood at £269m in 2015-16, which pays for the accommodation of 58,600 staff.
Under the programme, HMRC will transition from 170 widely dispersed offices to 13 regional centres, with an additional four specialist sites and a central London headquarters. This will see 137 offices close by 2021 and involve 38,000 employees moving to the regional centres or leaving the department altogether. Some may need to relocate by up to 174 miles if they want to keep their jobs.
The scale of the savings that HMRC can make is limited by its Private Finance Initiative contract with Mapeley, which does not expire until 2021.
Under this deal, HMRC sold its freehold properties, which amounted to two-thirds of the estate, to Mapeley for £370m, then immediately leased them back, with Mapeley providing facilities management and maintenance services.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, is quoted by Public Finance:
“HMRC has improved the handling of its current contract with Mapeley and achieved better outcomes, though significant risks remains.
Looking ahead, HMRC has acknowledged its original plan for regional centres was unrealistic and is now re-considering the scope and timing of the programme.”He advised HMRC to “step back and consider whether this strategy still best supports its wider business transformation and will deliver the sustainable cost saving it set out to achieve in the long run”.
The legacy of Mapeley!
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