Thursday, 25 February 2010

At HMRC, the true cost of public sector cost-cutting emerges

Yesterday's Liverpool Echo carried the story that ninety staff in the Bootle Office of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will lose their jobs in March. HMRC apparently took the decision not to renew the contract of these members of staff on the basis that there was "not a business need" to do so. "There is no suggestion at all this will affect customer service," according to HMRC spokesman Dave Gostelow.

Local PCS union rep John Virtue, however, begged to differ. PCS has commented that it is "deeply saddened" and "angered" by the job losses, and according to him "this anger is made worse by the fact the work will still be there, long after our members have been made redundant." Recent evidence suggests that he is right.

In January, the Daily Mail reported this;
Hundreds of thousands of workers could pay £1,300 too much tax next year due to a major Revenue and Customs computer blunder.

A new system has sent out a stream of incorrect tax codes.

Many employees have received two or three different codes in the post - and in some cases all have been wrong. 
After I reported last August that there are "around 4.5 million individuals who have overpaid in total some £1.6 billion of tax" and that these cases, according to the Revenue's own publications, are essentially being written off, these additional "blunders" become even more outrageous. Given that the 90 people losing their jobs in Bootle - of a total 800 nationwide - are amongst those responsible for dealing with this colossal fuck-up, the idea that there is no "business need" for them to keep their jobs is utterly ludicrous.

As John Virtue told the Echo;
The only way to address the problem over tax codes is to put enough resources in place so we can correctly deal with taxpayers’ affairs. We have argued for several years now we simply do not have enough staff to do the job effectively.
This decision shows that the right-wing argument for public sector job cuts on the basis of "efficiency" and "value for money" is nothing short of dogmatic nonsense. Even this one decision, in the midst of much broader attacks on low-paid public sector workers, has created an enormous backlog of work and drastically reduced the possibility that the several billion pounds owed by HMRC to the public ever being repaid. One might also ask why the ordinary workers who administer public services are being cut back on whilst MPs and knighted senior civil servants who do little other than offer press releases and slash vital jobs remain untouched.

Indeed, the whole mess is "beyond logic" and "this decision shows utter contempt for the taxpayer" and for the working class.