HMRC got digital transformation timings 'badly wrong'
HMRC misjudged its digital strategy by reducing staffing levels before technical improvements were complete, according to a spending watchdog.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said that the failure to embed new technology properly before headcount reductions were made led to a collapse in service quality during 2015.
It said that customers were often left waiting on hold for more than an hour, although services have subsequently improved following the recruitment of additional staff.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “HMRC’s overall strategy of using digitally enabled information to improve efficiency and deliver service in new ways make sense to the NAO.
“This does not change the fact that they got their timing badly wrong in 2014, letting significant numbers of call handling staff go before their new approach was working reliably. “This led to a collapse in service quality and forced a rapid expansion of headcount.
“HMRC needs to move forward carefully and get their strategy back on track while maintaining, and hopefully improving, service standards”.
The NAO report said that between 2010-11 and 2014-15, HMRC cut staff in personal tax from 26,000 to 15,000.
Its strategy involved increasing automation of the PAYE system, operating on a more flexible basis so staff could move between different services and moving customers online.
It introduced automated telephony and paperless self-assessment processes in 2013/14 but demand for telephone advice did not fall.
Despite this, in order to meet its budget, it released 5,600 staff from its personal tax operations.
The report said: “HMRC believes it was over-optimistic about the cumulative impact of the change and had not built sufficient contingency into its plans.”
After average waiting times tripled, HMRC was forced to recruit another 2,400 staff to its taxes helpline in autumn 2015.
Responding to the report, Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for customer services said: “We recognise that early in 2015 we didn’t provide the standard of service that people are entitled to expect and we apologised at the time. We have since fully recovered and are now offering our best service levels in years.
“Over the past six months we’ve consistently answered calls in an average of less than six minutes, and have launched new online tax accounts and webchat for everyone, enabling customers to manage their tax affairs wherever and whenever they want.”
Hackathons are a way for Norfolk to drive digital innovation in adult social care. Gill Hitchcock reports on the council’s achievements and aspirations.
Internal competition is rife for in-demand tech talent, think tank finds
Organisation seeks manager to replace Nic Harrison in role spearheading design, standards, and controls
Interim CDIO Simon McKinnon provides insight into department's agenda for the year ahead
BT shows how to move from separate audio and web conferencing services to a fully integrated video, mobile, any device from anywhere meeting experience
BT's Keith Langridge leads a debate on implementing an SD-WAN which delivers on its promise, now and into the future
There’s a vast network that keeps our internet running, and it lives under the ocean
BT thinks The Internet of Things is about to undergo a revolution. Over the past two decades, we've seen IoT tech evolve from a possibility, to a novelty, to an established tool that plays a vital...