NAO targets tax credit debacle

This time, the complaints are being made by the Professional and Commercial Services Union, the body that looks after the interests of, among others, Inland Revenue staff.

In a comprehensive evaluation into the introduction of the tax credits, published earlier this month, the union offers a deeply worrying insight into the conditions that Revenue staff were forced to work under.

Accountancy Age reported in May that conditions had become so distressing that staff across the country held a number of 15-minute walkouts in protest.

We also reported that one particular claimant had glued his hand to an enquiry centre desk, until he received his money.

On the face of it, it’s an amusing anecdote. On inspection of the PCS report, it becomes far more serious than that.

One Sheffield-based claimant threatened to ‘kill their own children and bring them back in bags’, several staff received death threats, and one irate claimant relieved himself against an enquiry centre office door.

It is tales such as these that point out the consequences that badly organised government policies have. And the introduction of tax credits was shambolic to say the least.

While Sir Nick Montagu, the Revenue’s beleaguered chairman, received most of the early flak, it is difficult not to believe that the blame lies far higher up the food chain than that.

One of the key questions is whether the tax credits system was rushed through for political reasons. There are many who believe it was and, if true, it is a damning indictment of the ministers involved.

Step forward Gordon Brown and Dawn Primarolo. Both are now fully in the firing line as the National Audit Office is currently investigating the fiasco.

The NAO has taken the PCS’s evaluation on board, and will report on its findings sometime this autumn.

Let’s hope that top of the list of questions the NAO looks into is, as the PCS suggests: ‘Were the project plans properly structured, that is political timeframe and associated pressures versus available staff and time resources?’ One suspects not.

Related reading