HMRC Contact Centres

Chancellor of the Exchequer – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 6th December 2011.

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Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Shadow Minister (International Development) 2:30 pm, 6th December 2011

What recent discussions he has had with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the provision of customer services by private sector companies in HMRC contact centres; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

HMRC has kept me informed about its plans for a small-scale, short-term trial to test whether the use of additional resources for contact centres from third party providers might help it to improve levels of service.

Photo of Tony Cunningham Tony Cunningham Shadow Minister (International Development)

There are obviously issues relating to the use of the private sector in tax offices. Will the Minister meet me and other constituency MPs who are affected by this rather risky pilot?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

I am happy to meet the hon. Gentleman, but HMRC is exploring ways in which it can improve the service in contact centres so that when taxpayers and tax credit claimants phone up they can get through more easily and more reliably. I would have thought that that was something that hon. Members on all sides of the House would welcome.

Photo of Nicholas Soames Nicholas Soames Conservative, Mid Sussex

May I ask my hon. Friend to recognise that the service provided by HMRC contact centres is not good enough and that many of our companies have great difficulty with continuity of service? Anything that can be done to improve the service is wholly to be welcomed.

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

I am grateful for those comments. It is worth noting that about 70% of calls now get through to HMRC contact centres on the first attempt, whereas last year the proportion was about 40%. Progress has been made, therefore, but we want to make further progress and it is sensible that HMRC explores what possibilities exist.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Labour, North Tyneside

Will the Minister say how many more or fewer HMRC staff there will be over the next three years?

Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Exchequer Secretary

The overall trend in HMRC employment has been downwards since 2005, when the organisation was formed, and that will continue, but we are redeploying staff, for example in enforcement and compliance, which means that additional staff are being taken on to deal with tax evasion and tax avoidance.