The Government does not employ customs agents/customs intermediaries directly, and it does not have a target for numbers of customs agents. Readiness of the customs intermediary sector relates to the capacity to make declarations, rather than numbers of staff employed. This is because the sector is varied and made up of a number of different business models including specific customs brokers, freight forwarders and fast parcel operators; all of which will require different numbers of staff to complete declarations and to provide their services. Many in the sector have innovated and brought in significant IT solutions to automate many processes which has reduced the numbers of staff they require. The Government has helped them to do this by making over £80 million of support available, including flexible grants that can be used for IT and training, as well as recruitment, depending on the needs of the business.
The Government knows the intermediary sector has used this support and increased capacity significantly. The findings of recent Ipsos Mori surveying of the sector (published on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/research-into-the-customs-intermediaries-sector-wave-2-report) show that customs intermediaries expected to increase their capacity four fold to meet additional demand. In addition, the Government has created an intermediary register on GOV.UK to help traders find an agent. This holds a list of intermediaries that traders could use and shows which are taking on new clients, and the services offered. Over 300 intermediaries have highlighted they are taking on new clients, including those that specialise in smaller traders or movements of goods subject to SPS controls.
The Government continues to monitor the situation closely and engage with the sector to understand the support it needs, keeping measures under review.