The Stirrer

news that matters, campaigns that count

for Birmingham, the Black Country and beyond



This week's child benefit cock up is only the latest in a long line of government mishaps. Barbara Panvel traces the problems back to cost-cutting - which has also impacted on some of Birmingham's neediest citizens.

Another example of government inefficiency - a subject aired earlier this year in the Stirrer's columns: see link here - was revealed a couple of days ago.

When HM Customs and Excise merged with the Inland Revenue in 2005, the executive board was ordered to cut 25,000 staff - and also to improve services!

The Institute of Chartered Accountants reports that services have been affected by this, complaining about the huge delays at HM Revenue and Customs which have been hampering the businesses they serve.

Other problems reported include:

  • earlier this month, HMRC was forced to admit that it had lost a CD containing sensitive personal details of 15,000 Standard Life customers, which had also gone missing in the post
  • a second CD with details of customers at another firm was reported to have been lost
  • in October, in response to a parliamentary question, the Treasury revealed that 41 laptops had been stolen from HMRC between Oct 2006 and Sept 2007 . . .

ICA now suggests that the cuts could have had a bearing on the loss of the child benefit records reported yesterday.

Local people who need the free government advisory centre at City Centre House in Union Street have also been affected by these cuts. These are people who cannot afford to employ an accountant and need help to answer some of the questions in the forms sent by income tax and related matters.

All, whether they have learning difficulties, are new to the country, elderly and/or bereaved, or are simply unused to dealing with official forms, are given friendly and competent service at this centre.

Before the cuts were made, an appointment could be given on the same day, but now Birmingham residents in need of help see that the room at City Centre House, which had been full of advisors - twenty or so desks each equipped with a computer - is almost empty; only a few people are now on duty and appointments have to be made three days ahead.

The service is as helpful, friendly and efficient as it always has been, but immediate relief is no longer possible for all in urgent need or with a deadline to meet.

Time for change?

The Stirrer Forum

The Stirrer home

©2007 The Stirrer