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General News Update

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Austerity

The demonstrations against austerity that occurred over this past weekend in many parts of UK show the depth of feeling and concern that many people have over the impact of the measures that the Government have taken or is contemplating introducing. The subject of austerity is extremely complex ranging from the economic argument ( necessary or anti-growth ) through to the potential for disproportionate impacts on demographic sectors of the public . One thing that is clear is that only with an efficient and effective tax enforcement regime in place that realises the maximum value of any current tax base will HM Government have the money to finance public services.

HMRC staff know that we are not at that stage yet. Firstly staff reductions that are possible from the recent operating budget cut , the July Budget and Spending Review 2015 are incompatible with realising the maximum possible tax take. Secondly the current situation in HMRC requires much more action to address structural and functional issues that inhibit staff from carrying out their duties to the maximum extent possible ( PMR and the silo structures to mention just two ) . And thirdly the strategic direction that is BoF.

To summarise – the way to tackle austerity that HMRC can actually accomplish is to confront the serious issues that prevent the staff from operating a world class tax service.

Pay

There are staff in HMRC that have not had a pay rise since 2007. There are many more that have not had a pay rise since 2010. Pay progression inside the grade pay scale has stopped – the actual rate for the job is the maximum of the pay scale by the way. We continue to have staff that receive state benefits because of their low pay – surely a state of affairs that should cause any public sector employer deep shame. Due to the inflation rates over these years and even with the recent very short period of deflation – we have seen serious and real term pay cuts for most staff. Add into the fact that HMRC staff like all of the public in the UK has had to suffer the impacts of reduced public services – then the toxic mix has been disproportionate to the very people who are integral to the revival of the UK.

Now to ensure even less positive engagement of staff we have the delays to the “pay deal” due in 2015 – ostensibly due to the General Election. The term pay deal is used extremely loosely as most staff will receive non consolidated pay rises of a few pounds per month – if they are lucky.

There are ways to tackle this completely unsatisfactory state of affairs .

  • Focus on HMRC staff only
  • A Living Wage – and how to introduce without detriment to Treasury “caps”
  • Reform pay scales – promotion pay , length of scale and maximum rate
  • Understand and use recyclable elements
  • Full and comprehensive engagement with the employer – anticipate and thereby avoid delays

Until then – we have the continuing disaster that is pay in HMRC.

Building Our Future

BoF 3 is underway and frankly very few staff believe this is a “conversation”. Leave aside the non controversial issue of proving better access to HMRC services to the general public and instead think about the estate changes that are being planned. They have been planned for years.

We are making the business fit the reduced estate not making the estate fit the business.

Ever more inventive and in some cases perplexing different ways of working are being trialled – unknown to vast majority of staff – that will seek to justify very few “touchdown” sites . They will reduce to zero if some get their way which is perhaps why the detail is so scant on what and how they will operate. The trials are , when slowly filtered out to operational staff ( of all grades ), seen as potentially worthy but they do not negate the need for UK geographical physical coverage especially when the newly emerging risk models are striving to finally understand better the regional variations of risk. We have witnessed experienced operational managers and staff , the few that are finally told of the trials , aghast at the impact on the real compliance effort ( one we are still working hard to fully realise ) of these “ideas”. Oh and we are sure you all know that we recruit only at the soon to be announced “hubs”.

In our view we have the potential toxic mix we have continually warned against that requires urgent action to prevent irreparable harm to HMRC.

PMR

On and on it goes . Hard targets creeping in – ones that the individual does not have full control over ; quality measures ( 10 or 12 or even more ) that require managers to check 1 in 8 cases and just one failure of one quality measure on one case means “MI” – ignore the productivity decrease or even the actual yield and the fact that some “quality measures” are less than “robust” ; an appeals system that is frankly to use the word of one member “weird” ; all pretence of “guided” gone with managers telling us they are forced to stay are the ever more surreal “validation” meetings until the quota is met regardless of objectivity  ( see also our previous news item regarding “forced” ) ; no central negotiations for years by the “recognised union” ; behaviours that do not reflect CSCF , the grade of the individual or the actual competency that aligns with the job ; staff and managers subsumed by paperwork ; staff and managers risk adverse because ….  ; ….. your correspondent could go on and on …

When is someone going to stand up and say the truth – the emperor has no clothes ?

 

The toxicity of truth ….

 

Until HMRC staff have a representative body that understands them and HMRC and can actually do something to tackle the issues – then nothing will happen other than we remain , embarrassingly 101/101 in the staff survey results. We urge all staff to complete the survey later this year and let the true level of your concerns be heard….. and soon we return to subject of Tax Professional Qualifications – or how to get over-trained with concurrent stress levels leading to a lack of operational staff coupled with a reduction in your terms and conditions of service should you actually survive the ordeal – couldn’t make it up ….

 

Join the RCTU – only when we are a number that cannot be ignored will you have the service you require.

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