HM Revenue and Customs has apologised for failures in its services following a critical assessment by MPs. In a new report, the Treasury Select Committee found 'considerable dissatisfaction' with the service provided by the department, with 'endemic' delays and failure to answer phone calls amongst the concerns raised.
Meanwhile, the Government has announced the locations of 11 new enterprise zones as part of its 'Plan for Growth'. Prime Minister David Cameron said he hoped the new sites, which will benefit from cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control, will become 'trailblazers for growth, jobs and prosperity'.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has apologised to taxpayers after a new report exposed a raft of problems with its services.
The chairman of HMRC, Mike Clasper, admitted that the Revenue was 'not happy' with its performance in 2010, adding that it had been 'overwhelmed for a period of time'.
A recent report by the Treasury Select Committee highlighted numerous problems with the department, including 'endemic' delays in answering letters and failing to answer phone calls.
'[Our performance] simply wasn't good enough on post and telephone and I'd like to take the opportunity to apologise to the people who had to take a long time to get through, or we didn't get back to them quick enough with the post,' said Clasper.
He continued: 'In 2011 we've been working very very hard to improve things. We're handling the calls immediately much more frequently than we did in 2010 and as far as individual customers are concerned you know the post levels have dropped in half.'
The MPs' report blamed bad management, excessive job cuts, demoralised staff and increasingly complex tax laws for HMRC's unsatisfactory level of service.
'The evidence we have received in this inquiry has been disturbing,' commented MPs. 'HMRC's delivery of services to the general public has fallen to unacceptable levels in several areas. We are concerned that HMRC's performance will continue to deteriorate if further reductions in resources are badly managed.'
Some of the recommendations outlined in the Committee's report include:
However, the report acknowledged that HMRC does a good job in collecting taxes and performs 'a crucial role' under 'significant external pressures'.
Following the report, HMRC said it has recruited an additional 1,000 contact centre advisers to handle calls during 'exceptionally busy periods'.
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The Government has announced the locations of 11 new 'enterprise zones' in England in a bid to boost local economies.
It is hoped the new sites, which will benefit from cheaper business rates, superfast broadband and lower levels of planning control, will create 30,000 new jobs by 2015.
Plans to create 21 new enterprise zones nationwide were first unveiled in the Chancellor's Budget in March.
The enterprise zones previously announced were: Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, the Black Country, the Tees Valley, the West of England and the North East.
Now Warrington, Cornwall, Gosport, Norfolk, Hereford, Kent and Oxfordshire, Essex, Suffolk, Northampton, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Humber Estuary will also become targeted zones for enrichment.
The Prime Minister David Cameron said: 'We are determined to do everything we can to make Britain the best place in the world to start and grow a business.
'Enterprise zones are a major step towards delivering this - cutting business taxes, easing planning restrictions and giving business the tools they need to invest and expand.
'These new enterprise zones will be trailblazers for growth, jobs and prosperity throughout the country.'
Under the plans, businesses that move into an enterprise zone during the course of the Parliament will benefit from a 100% business rate discount - worth up to £275,000 - over a five year period.
In addition, the Government and local authority will help to develop radically simplified planning approaches in the zone, as well as providing support to ensure superfast broadband is rolled out.
A complete list of the new enterprise zones can be found on the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills website.
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