Tax Office fate will be known tomorrow

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 19:27 on 11 November 2015


Tax Office's feasibility has been an issue for a while. Picture: courtesy of Bill Henry.

STAFF at Cumbernauld’s HMRC site will find out tomorrow morning whether there is a long-term future for the site. 

Cumbernauld Media has spoken to a number of staff members at the site, who have corroborated suggestions that HMRC will communicate details of any restructuring plans to staff tomorrow.

According to sources at HMRC’s local site, staff at Cumbernauld Tax Office will learn of their centre’s future at 11am tomorrow morning, though the final decisions “will not entirely surprise staff,” according to one HMRC source. 

Part of a national review of HMRC sites and services, tomorrow’s verdict on the future of Cumbernauld Tax Office will form part of a wider shake-up of how HMRC sites operate and where they are located.

The announcement comes after an extensive consultation exercise of HMRC staff nationwide, labelled ‘Building Our Future’. 

In May, we reported on the second of the Building Our Future consultation papers, which cast doubt over the long-term feasibility of the taxman’s Cumbernauld site. 

Pages 36 and 37 of the document – which was passed to Cumbernauld Media – discussed the idea of 'Regional Centres', which would see local offices like Cumbernauld shut in favour of centralised bases.

Outlining HMRC’s preferences for Scotland, the document described how “Our West of Scotland campus is spread out over the widest area, stretching all the way from East Kilbride in the south to Cumbernauld in the north east, also taking in Glasgow, Paisley and Irvine.” 

It explained how, “No existing site is big enough for everyone in a Regional Centre or modern enough for the future,” adding: “Our intention would ultimately be to find a large, modern and green site in or around Glasgow that meets our location principles. Our plans for a Scottish Crime Campus in Gartcosh (seven miles outside Glasgow) are unaffected.” 

The contentious and provocative issue dates back to 2014, when HMRC began its ‘Building our Future’ stakeholder consultation process to change the way HMRC is run, by 2020.

In a speech before the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, on July 17th 2014, Ruth Owen, HMRC’s Director General of Personal Tax discussed the ‘Building Our Future’ consultation that was to follow in the months ahead.

Ms Owen cited “challenges” facing HMRC as a main reason for the consultative review of how to “achieve better outcomes at lower cost.”

She stressed that HMRC’s “priority” was to “include” and “involve our people.”

“We need to make HMRC a great place to work. In return we need our people to be flexible, and ready to learn new skills and do new things,” Ms Owen said in her address. 

Tomorrow marks the end of the review process, with a final decision – which is expected to back the earlier regionalisation proposals – due to go out to staff members tomorrow. 

Reports from September suggest that the tax authority's chief people officer William Hague emailed staff to confirm that the "overwhelming majority" of employees would be moved to regional offices in due course.

Mr Hague’s e-mail, leaked to Civil Service World explained to staff that the "…changes are one of the biggest building blocks of our transformation, as we simply can't transform the way that we serve the public without fundamentally changing how and where we work. 

Hague added: "That's because the way that we're currently organised, across 170 offices, simply doesn't make business or financial sense. It makes it hard for us to collaborate, develop people, or respond to operational priorities – and has created a position where we have isolated pockets of colleagues who have limited career opportunities. 

"The only way that we can change this is by rationalising our estate. Our estate contracts are structured in such a way that we need to act now. The alternative would involve us being forced to keep deteriorating buildings that we can do little about." 

The chief taxman’s e-mail also opened to door to the possibility of local offices, with the full downgrade to around 20 sites to take almost a whole decade, Hague says.

"The transition won't happen overnight, although the process is likely to begin for some as early as next year. For many, moves will happen between 2017 and 2021, although for others, it will take as long as ten years,” Hague’s e-mail in September told staff.

A spokesperson for HMRC would only comment to assuage fears that the taxman would no longer have a UK-wide presence.

HMRC will continue to maintain a "long-term" presence across Britain, the authority’s spokesperson said.

They added: “HMRC has set out a provisional timetable for announcements in every country and region in the UK over a fortnight in November, explaining how the overwhelming majority of our people will either move to a Regional Centre or one of a network of Transitional Sites, over the next decade.

"The changes to be announced in November are one of the building blocks of transforming HMRC into a smaller, more highly-skilled organisation, that provides better, more modern services and value for money for taxpayers.

"HMRC has made a commitment to keep a long-term presence in every country and region of the UK. We will provide more detail to our workforce in announcements in November."

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