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HMRC spends £80m on remote working tech amid 'couch potato' critique
Thu, 14th Mar 2024

As revealed by official figures, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has reportedly spent over £80m on remote working devices in the last three years, attracting critique over its alleged 'couch potato culture'. The disclosure, which came about under Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation by the Parliament Street think tank, reveals in detail the expenditure undertaken.

The data uncovers that the HRMC acquired a total of 175,250 laptops, tablet computers, phones, and desktops at a combined cost of £82,608,959. With site operations gradually shifting towards remote work, a vast sum of £64,088,744 was allocated to provide 88,362 laptops for the staff. The tally also included £7,930,271 for purchasing 54,093 tablet computers and £10,112,552 expended on 32,013 mobile phones. A comparatively lesser sum of £477,392 was utilised to purchase 782 desktop computers.

The inclination towards remote work among HMRC employees has also borne out in earlier research. The Telegraph informs us that approximately 95% of the staff at HMRC now work remotely at least one day in the working week. This number has seen a hike since the first national pandemic lockdown, when it rose to 92%, a considerable increase from roughly a third in 2019. This information was also acquired via a Freedom of Information request.

The scale of the spending and the perceived 'couch potato culture' at HMRC has drawn criticism. "HMRC cannot continue to splash our hard-earned cash to fuel this absurd remote working binge. It's time to put an end to this couch potato culture, with staff ordered back into the office as a mandatory part of their job description," argues Patrick Sullivan, Chairman of the Parliament Street think tank.

Sachin Agrawal, Managing Director, Zoho UK said, "Remote working is proven to deliver a dramatic increase to employee productivity, allowing staff to collaborate and manage important tasks wherever they may be. This level of tech investment should be part of a wider strategy, with employees getting access to the latest software applications, and being educated and fully trained to understand full capabilities. This ensures critical work is completed effectively and synchronised to deliver maximum value and contribute significantly to business success."

Michael Thornton, senior director, public sector at Investigo commented, "The bottom line is that this kind of tech investment will dramatically boost productivity in the long term. However, equipping staff with shiny new devices is only part of the solution, public sector teams need to embrace AI and ensure they have a robust digital talent pipeline in place to drive long term savings."

Stuart Munton Chief for Delivery at AND Digital added, "Flexible working is critical for cutting travel time and reducing overheads in terms of office costs. If we want to build a leaner, more effective public sector then these kind of tech investments are key."

Parliament Street is an innovative young think tank dedicated to creating a community of ideas. According to Parliament Street, its aim at all times to give all members a high return on involvement through participation. The organisation is committed to thinking beyond the current policy agenda and looking towards the debates that are likely to be formed after the next general election or by the next generation in government.