MP backs tax staff and blames cut

A LOCAL politician has defended the workforce of Cumbernauld’s biggest employer following a National Audit Office report which accuses them of offering poor customer service.

MP Gregg McClymont blames the Government for cutting staff numbers at HM Revenue and Customs, and failing to invest in the workforce in Cumbernauld.

The NAO report highlighted that delays in answering phone calls to HMRC hotlines cost the taxpayer £136 million in the last year.

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The NAO report also found that 20 million calls to HMRC hotlines were not picked up at all last year.

Mr McClymont said: “No wonder calls are going unanswered when the Government has slashed HMRC’s budget and got rid of many experienced staff in Cumbernauld and around the country as a whole.

“I know that the local workforce at HMRC Cumbernauld are feeling the strain as staff leave and are not replaced. “Collecting tax is not an easy job and the staff need the Government to support them and invest in Cumbernauld HMRC.”

He added: “The Tory led Government may think that they are saving taxpayer’s money by cutting funding to revenue and customs, but the NAO’s report shows that this is a false economy. The delays that come as a result of staff being under pressure to do more and more work are putting a serious financial burden on customers.

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“With big changes on the way next year, such as real time information and further cuts to tax credits and child benefit, I fear HMRC Cumbernauld will struggle to cope. This will have a further detrimental effect on staff morale. Ministers urgently need to get a grip.”

HRMC said they would not comment specifically on Cumbernauld.

A spokesman, however, said: “In 2010/11 we answered 48 per cent of all call attempts, rising to 74 per cent in 2011/12. By late 2012 we were answering over 90 per cent of calls to our contact centres. We are well aware that in the past we have not delivered the standard of service to which we are committed. We are determined to build on this progress and we have invested £34 million so we can deliver on our improvement targets earlier than planned.

“We receive well over 10 million pieces of post every year, and the most recent figures show we are now replying to over 80 per cent within 15 working days.

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“We want people to be able to access our phone services at the lowest possible cost to them, whilst ensuring value for money to the taxpayer. As part of this commitment we have transferred our Tax Credits Phone Lines, accounting for around 40 per cent of our calls, from 0845 to 0345 numbers.

“We are determined to build on these improvements until we deliver the quality of service to which our customers are entitled to expect.”