Taxman cracks down on ‘inefficient’ clutter

We all know that HM Revenue & Customs is trying to save money, but did it
need to ban call centre staff from keeping photos on their desks?

Last week, the tax authority caused an uproar among union groups as news
filtered out that HMRC employees in North Wales had been issued with a directive
banning a raft of everyday items because they were seen as inefficient.

Unions accused the government of treating staff like robots and wasting
public cash on ‘hare-brained’ schemes. ‘This Brave New World’ is not only
deskilling hard-working staff, it is dehumanising them,’ said Mark Serwotka,
general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union. ‘It’s ridiculous
that service workers are banned from having things such as photos on their

Since the 2004 Gershon Review, which set a target of £20bn in annual
efficiency gains by 2007-08, through a 2.5% a year efficiency target for the
whole public sector, the tax body has found itself under the microscope. The
review floated a sweep of efficiency drives up until 2008, which were
interpreted as a thinly veiled cost-cutting exercise.

The document promised to cut 14,000 posts by the end of 2007-08, but HMRC has
found itself stuck between high government expectations of increased
efficiencies and union anger as problems surfaced since the cuts have been

Related reading