back to article Geniuses at HMRC sack too many staff! Nope, can't do it online. FAIL

HMRC was too hasty to cut staff before expected cost savings from a shift to digital materialised – something that should act as a cautionary tale for its current "digitisation" plans, the National Audit Office has warned. Between 2010/11 and 2014/15, HMRC cut staff in its personal tax department from 26,000 to 15,000. But …

  1. zaax

    The East Anglian regional center will not be with in the East Anglian region, (at present) it will be on the Isle of Dogs

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      East Anglian regional center

      Well it would be a lot cheaper to put it in East Anglia.

      I'd also wonder it the staff that were sacked were the quality ones - makes it easier to privatise if its going to the isle of dogs...

    2. Ol' Grumpy

      Or simply going to the dogs ...

  2. N2


    Waiting times to speak to anyone at HMRC - let alone someone who actually gives a toss, triple after 3 million taxpayers get incorrect coding...

    Lin Holmer collects damehood & £2.2million pension package to boot.

    1. tfewster

      Re: Meanwhile

      That's also been my experience in the past. After the back-room boys cocked up my tax code again this year after I'd moved companies, I sat down at 1 pm with a speakerphone, a fresh brew and a book to wait for HMRC to answer the phone.

      I steeled myself as the recorded messages exhorted me to visit their useless website or write to them. No, they wouldn't fool me like that again! My will was strong!! I WOULD get through to a human being (before being lied to and fobbed off)!!! And I prevailed in my meagre goal!!!! My call was answered by a tired sounding operative. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was hopeless, but I explained the situation. The agent confirmed my awful suspicion, that the Records showed I had two employers and I prepared to be stonewalled, transferred or dropped. Then I was put on hold while she "just checked something". "So it begins", I thought.

      Kelly (for twas she!) came back on the line in seconds. She'd checked, and the P45 from the old company had come through, so she could correct the Records immediately and send a new coding notice out. Stunned at this unexpected twist, I mumbled my thanks, hung up and sipped my still steaming coffee. Although the recorded messages had seemed interminable, just three minutes had passed in the real world.

      So hail to the Kellys of this world, overworked and rarely appreciated as they sort out other peoples foulups --->

  3. Graham Marsden

    Well, what a surprise!

    We wouldn't have expected that, would we, girls and boys, after all, we all know that downsizing and austerity and cost-cutting lead to better services, don't we...?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Modern day managers

    The bright young things haven't a fecking clue.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely redundancy requires the staff to no longer be needed?

    One of the issues with the approach is that it assumed that a transition would make staff unnecessary, and roles were eliminated before they weren't needed. Technically, you could argue that the roles weren't yet redundant and that the redundancies weren't therefore justified or valid.

    A company has obligations to its employees just as it does to others, and beyond the massive mess caused to customers, you have to question whether some of the managers breached employment legislation in pursuing the staff reduction before there was any demonstrable need for those workers.

    It's all very well to try to optimise an operation, and with staff costs being often the largest expense for an organisation, then reducing headcount is generally part of that. But expecting to reduce staff while improving service and tax revenues at the same time is somewhere approaching expecting your fish dinner to have a Bachelor's degree.

    1. Dale 3

      redundant = surplus to requirements

      How to do it correctly: Improve process (+£); find redundant people; make them redundant (-££).

      How government/large organisations do it: Make arbitrary number of people redundant (-££); change process (+££); find out how many of them really were redundant; get contractors to deal with the backlog (+£££).

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    All over the world senior management, ensconced in their own private virtual reality, fail to grasp the simple fact that whatever it is your organisation does, it's actually the people whom it employs that actually do it.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Call for GDS CIO! (That's Chief Imagineering Officer)

    This just needs the mainframes to be migrated into the Cloud and the extensive use of 'infographics' all over the HMRC web-site. Simples!

  8. Often Confused

    Pointing Finger

    Generally I'm against finger pointing, but when daft crap like this happens in the public sector "the department" makes a miscalculation or "the organisation" overestimates. When we all know that it was the actions of one moron with the power to veto informed objections or sell out to their mates (aka outsourcing) that are the cause for the screw up, hiding behind a wall of bureaucracy.

    I for one (and understand why the don't) call for these wastes of human skin to be ousted by their colleagues and strung up a flag pole by their ankles.

    Then beaten with a bag of over-ripe oranges.


    1. ArrZarr

      Re: Pointing Finger

      I was with you on the beatings until you mentioned using over-ripe oranges. By the time you're progressed to this, we've progressed from necessary punishment to utter inhumanity.

      1. Why Not?

        Re: Pointing Finger

        Depends if its a Tory MP, in which case they might enjoy it.

  9. Shaha Alam

    of course this happened. hmrc outsourced "competency" to the cloud of wishful thinking decades ago.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the endless infographics full of nebulous buzzwords didn't help, then?

  11. digiman

    Digital services is definitely all about empowering the consumer and reducing costs (ie less staff), but why do Government services struggle to become effective digital services? Well it is not because the technology or techies aren't up to the job. In reality, the leaders (senior grades) within the civil service do not have the commercial knowledge, experience or appetite to ever understand what a 'service' or a 'customer' actually is; therefore they run their services as 'departments', internally focussed and designed to create layers of bureaucracy and power, where the 'customer' is answerable to them and their 'authority'. Introducing digital services has only created a web enabled version of that culture and mind set - just look at HMRC farce web sites and the awful GDS whitespace UX rules. The real answer is to get rid of those senior civil servants with their cosy job-for-life mentality and replace them with real world commercial people with a competitive customer service ethic - whole-scale not piecemeal - only then will excellence naturally follow.

  12. David Roberts

    What puzzles me

    Is that I have been filling in Self Assessment tax returns on line yea these many years without any major problems.

    For a short while I was a consultancy firm, and also did the company tax and VAT online. Even had a digital certificate to authenticate myself.

    So why are online tax returns suddenly seen as a new digital thing?

    They may need to encourage migration from paper and expand and enhance the services they offer, but the basic stuff has been around well over a decade.

    Then again, GDS have done the marketing trick and redefined digital (that is, I am pretty sure that the previous service wasn't analogue).

    Hope HMRC beat GDS off with a big shitty stick with several nails in.

  13. CustardGannet

    "This cost taxpayers a total of £97m as they were forced to hold"

    But look at it another way : they BOOSTED telcos' income by £97m, so it's a zero-sum game. Amiright ?

  14. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    I put the kettle on to make a cup of tea when I submitted my self assessment this afternoon, and had finished before the kettle boiled.

    However, the online system isn't without flaws. Entering '0.00' in response to any question reports an error - if an entry is zero you have to leave it blank instead of actually entering zero. Also, the 'notes' section refuses to allow such weird characters as £ % & - and newline. Because of course nobody is ever going to enter something alone the lines of: "40% of the income after the first £10pm in tax year 2015-16...." on a money-related website.

  15. GrumpyKiwi

    Not the right way of doing things

    Redundancy's not the right way to get rid of taxmen. The right way involves 2 yards of hempen rope and a lamppost as an example to others.

  16. Sirius Lee

    Get it right

    The report points out that the waiting times increased because of increases *in the last week before the Self-Assessment deadlines*. Put it another way, HMRC is being criticised for not accommodating an arbitrarily large number of calls in those two weeks, at my expense, by people and their advisers who could have filed any time in the previous six months.

    My experience as a business owner is that all my calls on PAYE, VAT and CT have been dealt with almost immediately. But then I'd never called in the week of the October SA deadline (paper returns) or the January deadline for on-line returns.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Get it right

      I can assure you that it was not just the week of the October SA deadline. I was failing to get through to them on numerous occasions between June and September.

  17. cortland

    Have they been

    ... following the adventures of the US Transportation Security Agency?

    Oh, SO sorry you had to wait, but don't worry; there's another flight tomorrow and the airline will be happy to sell you another nonrefundable ticket.

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