HM Revenue & Customs' (HMRC) digital delivery centre in Newcastle has been formally opened by Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke.

The centre will focus on developing services so people can manage their tax affairs online, as part of the government's wider 'digital by default' agenda to encourage more people to access government services online.

Last year, HMRC appointed Vodafone CIO Mark Dearnley as its chief digital and information officer to take over from Mark Hall, with Dearnley saying in November 2013 his goal was to make the organisation "a fully accessible digital business".

In a statement, HMRC said that the centre "is the first of its kind in government, and is a blueprint for how other public sector organisations can deliver digital services in the future".

HMRC announced plans to open the centre at the start of this year, and has since been recruiting for digital roles such as developers, technical architects, agile delivery managers and designers.

A spokesperson was unable to say precisely how many HMRC staff are working out of the new centre at the moment, but there were roughly 55 employees in 10 teams working at the centre as of the end of May. It is understood that the centre is still recruiting for staff.

During his visit to the centre, David Gauke sat in on a customer feedback session where people had a chance to preview new online services under development, such as 'friends and family', which allows someone to nominate a person to act on their behalf in their tax matters.

Their thoughts on what they liked and disliked about the service and how it can be improved were then passed on to the relevant development teams, who use it to inform the next stage of designing the service.

The department is seeing growing demand for its digital services, with 276,000 individuals choosing to renew their tax credits online this year, whereas previously they had to renew by post or phone. Roughly 4.6 million UK citizens claim some form of tax credit every year.

HMRC's ultimate goal is for everyone to have their own individual tax account, which they can use to oversee all of their tax affairs and deal directly with the department.