The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recently written to Permanent Secretary Jon Thompson to outline concerns surrounding HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) ability to deliver the customs requirements for a no deal Brexit in time for the deadline of March 2019.
In my view, it is unhelpful to point out the problems without offering solutions. Until HMRC is properly resourced, including a full exploration of the effects of over a decade of stagnating pay on recruitment and retention, we will struggle to meet the increasing demands placed on our teams.
While HMRC has been allocated funding to recruit additional staff for Brexit related work, this does little to relieve the pressure on existing staff who continue to deliver business as usual while losing team members to Brexit work.
Concerns raised by the PAC around the understanding of tax reliefs and reducing error and fraud in tax credits can be at least partly attributed to this prioritisation of Brexit work.
I have every faith that ARC members will deliver what is required to increasingly tight deadlines, but the cost to work life balance and the detrimental effect on staff commitment to the civil service is unacceptable and unsustainable.
A recent survey of Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC) members indicated that many of the most dedicated civil servants are considering leaving due to pressures of workload and lack of pay progress for the last decade. Upon departure, they would take years of experience with them which cannot be replicated in brand new recruits.
If the Government wants a world class service it must offer world class resourcing to retain the expertise it has at its fingertips and allow dedicated HMRC staff to successfully prepare for Brexit while also balancing the department’s other day-to-day services.
Paula Houghton is the President of the Association of Revenue and Customs (ARC).