HM Revenue and Customs has today revealed that it still plans for around 90% of existing staff to be able to move to one of its 13 new regional centres or complete their career in their current office as it provided a detailed update on its estate rationalisation plan.
In a progress report on the implementation of HMRC’s Building Our Future transformation programme announced in 2015, the department also confirmed that it would retain eight transitional centres until at least 2028.
The new year update on the office relocation plans, which are intended to reduce the number of HMRC offices from 170 down to 13 regional centres by 2022, also revealed a number of testbeds for the new hubs had been created in existing offices. These 'test and learn' facilities mimic the regional centre settings so staff can test new styles of working, including more flexible hours.
The document said that in 2015, HMRC said that “around 90% of our people who worked for us at that time, across all our locations, would be able to move to the new locations or see out their career in an existing HMRC building”.
“Today, across the UK we still expect that to be the case or very close to it,” it said.
It highlighted that during the last two years there have been 11,000 one-to-one conversations with staff to talk through their personal circumstances and the offices they could work in. Among the commitments HMRC has made is a pledge to “review our people policies to support new ways of doing things to make sure that as many people as possible are able to move with us”, including allowing people to claim financial support towards any additional journey costs for up to five years.
In addition to the 13 regional centres – which are to be based in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Stratford and Croydon – HMRC will retain eight transitional sites “to minimise any business disruption and to keep our people working locally for longer in locations where we recognise that significant numbers will not be able to move”.
This is an increase from the seven transitional sites that HMRC said it would retain in its 2017/18 annual report. The eight offices and the proposed exit dates are:
East Kilbride (Queensway House to 2025-26); Washington (Waterview Park to 2024-25); Preston (location to be confirmed to 2025); Manchester (Trinity Bridge House to 2027-28); Ipswich (Haven House to 2027-28 and St Clare House to 2023-24); Reading (Sapphire Plaza to 2024-25); Canary Wharf (10 South Colonnade, until Stratford regional centre opens); and Portsmouth (Lynx House to 2025 to 2026).
The move to regional centres was instigated in response to HMRC’s existing private finance initiative office deal, known as the STEPS contract, which covers two-thirds of its estate and is due to end in March 2021.
The updated estate plan revealed that most of the 13 regional hubs will be open by this date, although the Glasgow office (phase one set to open in 2021), Manchester (the first phase due to open in 2022), Nottingham (due to open in 2021-22), could miss the deadline.
The first of the new offices – the 1 Ruskin Square Croydon base for London and the south east – has opened, and HMRC said staff in the first new government hub to open were “experiencing the working environment that many civil servants across the UK will be moving to over the next few years”.
The update added: “The civil service is keen to learn from our experiences here, as well as colleagues’ experiences in Canary Wharf [another government hub, although this will only be a transitional base for HMRC], so they can make improvements to the design and operation of other hubs, understand the benefits these new working environments are bringing and deliver improvements for employees and the taxpayer.
“Indeed, this is something we are feeding into the development of our other regional centres, making them even better. Our early regional centres will be test beds for continuous improvements and enhancements.”
The Bristol hub, based at 3 Glass Wharf in the city, will become the second regional centre to open later this year.
“Our move to regional centres is now well underway and is one of the biggest transformation programmes in Europe,” HMRC added. “We are on track to achieve our ambition of becoming the world’s most digitally advanced tax authority.”