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HMRC announces rationale behind office closures


Fewer, more modern regional centres and highly skilled staff will provide customers with better services

HMRC has today announced the next step in its ten-year modernisation programme to create a tax authority fit for the future, committing to high-quality jobs and the creation of 13 new regional centres over the next five years, serving every nation and region in the UK.

The modernisation programme, now at the halfway point, includes investment in new online services, data analytics, new compliance techniques, new skills and new ways of working, to make it easier for the honest majority of customers to pay their tax, including by improving customer service, and harder for the dishonest minority to cheat the system. The changes have already resulted in over 80% of people filing their Self Assessment returns online and given customers new, simple ways to check their payments, make changes or find answers to questions.

The tax authority, which raised a record £517 billion for public services last year, will open its first new regional centre in 2016-17, with others following between 2017 and 2021.

HMRC’s 58,000 full-time equivalent employees are currently spread across 170 offices around the country, many of which are a legacy of the 1960s and 1970s, which range in size from around 6,000 people to fewer than ten. HMRC will bring its employees together in 13 large, modern regional centres, equipped with the digital infrastructure and training facilities needed to build a more highly-skilled workforce to meet the challenges of bringing in more revenue from those evading tax and improving its customer service to the honest majority.

The transformation supports the Government’s commitment to locate jobs throughout the country. Bringing staff together in large centres will enable people to develop careers up to senior levels, with less need to move around the country, and will support the growth of specialist teams and links with universities and other sources of skilled recruits.

Lin Homer, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said:

HMRC is committed to modern, regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK, with skilled and varied jobs and development opportunities, while also ensuring jobs are spread throughout the UK and not concentrated in the capital.

HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.

The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents. They will also make a big contribution to the cities where they are based, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s commitment for a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.

The changes will enable HMRC to give customers the modern services they now expect at a lower cost to the taxpayer, meeting the Government’s challenge for all departments to do more with less.

HMRC expects the majority of staff to be able to move from their current offices to a regional centre, and is phasing the moves over ten years in order to minimise redundancies. But HMRC will aim to have fewer staff in the future as it streamlines how it works and uses the best of modern technology to reduce costs.

Note to editors

  • The high-level plans for transforming HMRC were first shared with its staff 18 months ago. Since then, HMRC has held around 2,000 events across the UK, talking to its employees about how it is changing and involving them in the discussions.
  • The plans announced today will mean HMRC will be able to create better workplaces and generate estate savings of £100 million a year by 2025.
  • Moving more of HMRC’s work out of central London, which has some of the world’s most expensive office space, will enable HMRC to make substantial savings.
  • Regional centres will vary in size and in the mix of operational, tax professional and corporate services work that they contain. The smallest will hold 1,200 to 1,300 full-time equivalent members of staff and the largest, operationally-focused centres will hold more than 6,000.
  • HMRC will have four specialist sites for work that cannot be done elsewhere, notably where HMRC needs to work with its IT suppliers or other government agencies or departments. These will be in Telford, Worthing, Dover and at the Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh.
  • The 13 new regional centres will be in: North East (Newcastle); North West (Manchester and Liverpool); Yorkshire and the Humber (Leeds); East Midlands (Nottingham); West Midlands (Birmingham); Wales (Cardiff); Northern Ireland (Belfast); Scotland (Glasgow and Edinburgh); South West (Bristol); and London, South East and East of England (Stratford and Croydon). We cannot currently say more about the exact locations, because we need to negotiate with landlords and contractors, but they will be locations in the cities we have named with good transport links.
  • Ultimately, these changes will involve the closure of 137 offices by 2027. Offices will be released, for instance, as lease breaks arise or at the end of the PFI contract with Mapeley in 2021. HMRC shared the broad outline of the transition with its staff on 12 November – including potential office closure dates and the likely outcomes for individuals working in each office.
  • HMRC will consult staff and other interested groups on the best way to carry out this transition. Where staff are not based in or near a proposed or existing regional centre, they will be given a range of options and will have time to consider and discuss their future with HMRC.
  • Much modern compliance work can be done from any location but HMRC’s investigators and field force remain a mobile workforce able to cover the entire country as and when we need to make contact face-to-face or at people’s premises. There will also continue to be mobile customer services for vulnerable individuals or those with additional needs.

Published November 2015