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Jobs at risk as Cumbria tax offices face closure

Tax offices in Cumbria face closure with the loss of 18 jobs.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced that all its face-to-face enquiry offices in the UK will close by March next year. Offices include those in Carlisle, Dumfries, Penrith and Whitehaven.

Members of the Solway branch of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are planning to fight the closures and will picket the Carlisle HMRC office at Stocklund House and the Lillyhall office near Workington during a national Budget Day strike.

A union spokesman said: “This is another ill-thought-out cut to public services which, like the bedroom tax fiasco, will hit the most vulnerable people.

“This includes the elderly, the less literate or less articulate people in our communities for whom face-to-face contact is a basic and essential service.

“Have no doubt that this will see the service taxpayers receive from HMRC deteriorate and goes against the ministerial commitment given by the previous government to maintain a presence in each of the locations.”

The news comes in the same week as a National Audit Office (NAO) report claimed that HMRC lost £2.27 billion in tax credits last year.

HMRC was also condemned by MPs for costing customers £136 million a year through delays in answering calls – 25 per cent of 79 million calls were not answered at all despite a £900 million investment.

The PCS spokesman said:“The closures are based on flawed assumptions and misleading research. For example, HMRC points to a decrease in enquiry centre users and argues that face-to-face services are not required in the majority of situations.

“However, visitor reductions are a result of opening times being slashed to just one, two or three days a week in recent years.

“To even just arrange an appointment involves the public jumping through hoops in a hugely over-complicated system.

“This is the opposite of how it should be for those who need face-to-face support from HMRC.

“We also believe that enquiry centre locations, opening times and services provided are not advertised as widely as they should be by HMRC.”

People who will be affected by the changes are being urged to write MPs and local councillors to ask that they speak up against the closures.

Yesterday the PCS announced that civil servants were staging a second strike over pay and pensions following tomorrow’s walkout by customs, immigration, benefits and Jobcentre staff. Almost 250,000 members working for government departments and bodies will join a half-day strike on Friday, April 5, the end of the tax year.

The union is planning three months of industrial action, starting with tomorrow’s 24-hour protest.

However, the government has said action was futile.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said: “It is disappointing that yet again the PCS insist on pushing for futile action which benefits no one.”

He added that the government had taken part in more than a year of discussions with trades unions and added: “These reforms will ensure that public sector pensions will remain among the very best available and that they can be sustained for future generations.”

Have your say

I find it disturbing that some people are happy to see people lose their jobs.Any job lost affects the whole community every job lost takes money out of the local ecconomy less money spent localy in shops and buisnesses means more jobs lost and less choice,People who think their jobs are safe beware you could be next with the changes to the benifit payments and recent job loses 30 more tomorrow at Reays the money available in the community is shrinking it is not only those on the benifits who benifit from the system its the shops and buisness they use.

Posted by Robert on 27 March 2013 at 15:44

At a time when even the government admit to a fall in the collection of taxes, it beggars belief that they propose to close what few offices are left, and it is not everyone who can sort out problems by phone, even if you can get through to speak to someone.

Posted by Michael Owen on 27 March 2013 at 10:43

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