Taxman must stop micro-managing, say union leaders

HM REVENUE & CUSTOMS (HMRC) needs to change an oppressive working culture that is characterised by “command and control” and “micro-management”, in order to motivate staff who are braced for thousands of more job cuts, public sector unions told a Treasury committee.

Union leaders at the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) and the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC) – a section of the senior public servants’ union FDA – painted a generally grim picture of staff morale at the taxman when giving evidence to MPs on the Treasury sub-committee into administration and effectiveness of HM Revenue and Customs yesterday afternoon.

They blamed poor planning following the 2005 merger between the Inland Revenue & Customs and Customs & Excise; heavy job cuts (about 30,000 jobs have been axed over the past five years); and senior managers who they claimed have failed to articulate a clear vision for a vast organisation that is split into more than 30 “business streams”.

Details of the latest cuts in the HMRC budget, outlined in last year’s spending review for the period to 2014-15, have yet to be finalised. However, Peter Lockhart, group secretary for Revenue and Customs group at PCS, said that around £3bn would be cut from HMRC’s budget, which could result in the loss of 10,000 jobs at the taxman.

ARC president Graham Black, said: “We will have had ten years of nothing but cuts [if the latest spending cuts go ahead]. My fear is that we have forgotten how to get away from command and control [leadership]. Frankly any incumbent [boss of HMRC] would find it a difficult job. There is not time to stabilise.”

Despite the job cuts, the union leaders said they were confident that HMRC could hit key targets, such as recouping £8bn by 2014-15 through tackling tax fraud and errors. The drive for savings will be helped by a £900m investment in combating tax evasion, which was announced last year.

However, when MPs suggested that there was a lack of experience in tax administration across HMRC, union leaders agreed.


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