HM Revenue and Customs has officially opened its Stratford hub, making it the 11th of 14 planned regional centres to be fully up and running, with another expected to open later this month.
Sites in Croydon, Bristol, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Nottingham have now all opened, with Manchester to follow in the next few weeks.
The regional centres have been opening in parallel with the closure of a network of 170 HMRC offices across the UK, a strategy which the tax agency says will modernise the department and save it millions of pounds.
The Stratford hub in east London is only the third centre to get an official launch, due to Covid restrictions.
The site, at 14 Westfield Avenue, was formally opened by HMRC chief executive Jim Harra on 4 May, but has been used by civil servants who have been unable to work from home during the pandemic since March 2021.
Most staff have only recently been able to work at the building regularly due to Covid restrictions. There are now around 5,200 HMRC employees working there.
“I am delighted to finally mark the opening of our Stratford regional centre and government hub,” Harra said.
“The state-of-the-art building is a modern, inclusive and flexible working environment that will bring our people together and create greater opportunities for collaboration between teams making it easier to deliver great services to our customers.”
Stratford was the seventh regional centre to open its doors. The 11 finished sites opened on the following dates:
- Croydon – July 2017
- Bristol – September 2019
- Belfast – December 2019
- Edinburgh – September 2020
- Cardiff – February 2021
- Leeds – March 2021
- Stratford – March 2021
- Liverpool – August 2021
- Birmingham – August 2021
- Glasgow – April 2022
- Nottingham – April 2022
Manchester is set to welcome staff "in the next week or so". That will leave two regional centres yet to open: Newcastle and Portsmouth.
The Newcastle office will not open until 2027, while HMRC has not yet announced a location for the Portsmouth centre.
The Portsmouth regional centre is a recent addition to the strategy. Plans for a new site were announced in a U-turn in January, when HMRC said it would replace its existing temporary office in the port city that had been set to close in 2025-26.
HMRC said its locations strategy, which was announced in 2015, will enable it to become one of the most digitally advanced tax authorities in the world.
It also expects the strategy to save the department £300m by 2025-26, with an annual saving of £74m from 2025-26, rising to £90m from 2028-29.
At the formal opening of the Stratford site, there was a tribute to members of staff and former employees who had lost their lives in public service.
Among those known to have died while working at HMRC are two officials who passed away after displaying Covid symptoms in spring 2020.
Richard Las, HMRC’s senior leader for Stratford, and Reverend Sophia Acland led the tributes and dedicated a memorial in the building’s reception.
“Today, we also remember colleagues who lost their lives in public service. Their hard work and commitment to HMRC, its predecessor departments and the civil service will not be forgotten,” Harra said.