Swingeing cuts and an ageing workforce could plunge HMRC into a skills crisis, according to a new report.
Data from the National Audit Office (NAO) suggests that the Revenue’s tactic of halting recruitment and reducing existing staff numbers could increase the risk of a shortage of available talent in the future. The strategy led to a marked rise in the number of workers aged between 50-59, something that could prove problematic as they near retirement.
The report claimed that although HMRC has set out a clear vision of how it will deliver its services, the department has still not completed the required analysis to plan the skills it will require in the long term.
Overall, the watchdog calculated that government departments have achieved nearly £2.5 billion worth of savings by reducing staff numbers. The study found that HMRC alone has reduced its workforce by 20% in the last five years.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Departments have significantly cut their staff numbers and costs in the last five years but not enough planning has gone into making sure that, over the longer term, the reductions already made and any required in future are sustainable and do not damage the delivery of public services.
“The centre of government must do more to help departments meet these challenges, including managing the heightened risk of a shortage of vital skills.”
NAO’s report comes amid mounting criticism over the quality of customer service HMRC provides. Last year, the Revenue’s helpline was branded “inadequate” in a study by consumer group Which?
In addition, HMRC’s new Twitter advice service was called “laughable” by MPs, with some critics claiming it “beggars belief” that the government would encourage taxpayers to tweet about their accounting affairs.
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