The UK civil service is on strike tomorrow.  I’m sure there are lots who will complain and sneer at all the stupid cliches.  I’m sure there will be a number of people who say why should Civil Servants have a better deal than the public.  Others will say we don’t need civil servants.  To those I would say

1) Why should you have a worse deal than me?  The way to solve inequality is not to reduce the condition of those higher up, but to raise those at the bottom.  Employers rarely do this except under duress.  They don’t care about you, only how you can make profit for them.  If you work for one of the large PLC’s look at the reports of the Boards Salaries, and the pay raises they vote themselves.  Then look at yours.  Then ask who would the business miss most if one of you didn’t go into work- The person providing the service, or the man wheeling and dealing cutting to the bone and damn the customers.

 2) Civil servants do many important jobs.  Unfortunately, politicians only concentrate on the so called ‘front line’ services- Doctors, teachers, nurses, firefighters etc.  Where do you think all the support comes from.  People want a)nobody employed on behind the scenes work- the paperwork, and b) Drs etc not to do the paperwork. Some one has to do it. (continues after the break)

 People are complaining about the decline of the civil service- complaints about benefits, tax credits etc.  I work in the Revenue. People do not like the work being centrallised away from them- they want their tax to be dealt with by someone local, not a call centre, where you have to start over again next time you phone.  My colleagues in the call centres are put under enourmous strain because there is not the ability to give them the depth of training that used to be the case.  But the Board insist on taking more and more work away from highly experienced officers who deliver results year on year, and giving it to offices in other parts of the country staffed by temporary staff, who have their work changed regularly to deal with what ever crisis has occured.

 The evidence is that this ‘cut it beyond the minimum’ approach is already generating a backlash from politicians, the public and professionals, even in year 1 of a 5 year ‘ambition’.

 Paul Gray- Chair of HMRC had to admit to a Treasury Select Committee in Parliament that a number of the changes being made would COST MORE in uncollected tax than the money actually saved to the Treasury.

 Private Eye magazine reveals that centralising Compliance will SAVE £74m, and COST £204m in taxes from people dodging their tax.

People complain that the Call Centres are constantly engaged, and when you do get through no-one can answer the question.

Part of the reason no one can answer the question is  the way where the paper work is. It used to be that if you sent a letter to your tax office it would be dealt with there.  Now your tax office could well be at the other end of the country.  A freind asked me how his local tax office was in Scotland.  But because it is impossible to concentrate the staff required in the few sites that are planned on, all the people who used to do the work now get the work for others but second hand. Kent may be working the post of people who live in Oxfordshire.  Why aren’t those staff in Oxford doing it? Well the Edinburgh office passed the work for Leicestershire to them.  People have complained to me that when they phone and say ‘did you get my letter?’ the staff DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS- St Austell? Newcastle? Belfast?  The PCS Union estimates there is over 1 MILLION pieces of unanswered post- some months old- because there are just not the staff to work it.

 Accountants complain that they can not get hold of anyone to help their clients, meaning they do more work.  I wonder who pays for that extra work?

On top of this the Union estimates that there is a ‘Tax Gap’ of £25 BILLION (yes £25,000,000,000) of legally due and payable tax, that is going uninvestigated and uncollected because of lack of investment getting it. How much is that? 1,000 acadamy schools, or 1million+ policemen, teachers and nurses, or a 12% cut in the basic rate of tax.

 Unfortunately it all appears to be about “efficiency”.  While I would not argue against efficiency per se, wouldn’t effectiveness be better.

Which is better- £410bn collected at a cost of £10bn (98% efficiency, £400bn net) or

£400bn at a cost of £4bn (99% eff, £396bn net)

 The board seem to have indicated if it came to this scenario the latter- because its more efficient.