East Anglia's nearest tax office will be in London as Norwich office closes
PUBLISHED: 12:41 12 November 2015 | UPDATED: 18:47 12 November 2015
About 150 city jobs have been put at risk after HMRC announced plans to shut the Norwich tax office and overhaul its nationwide operation.
HM Revenues and Customs will axe 43 offices in the East of England, London and the South East – and a total of 137 across the country – as it rolls out a modernisation programme between 2016 and 2028.
The Norwich office, which employs about 150 people on Prince of Wales Road, is slated for closure in 2016-17.
It will mean that people in East Anglia will have to travel to London Stratford or Croydon, where two of 13 new regional centres will be created.
The HMRC claims the programme will save £100m a year by 2025 and include new online and other services to make it easier for people to pay their tax.
Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, said: “It is absurd that people in our city used to getting help with tax issues here in Norwich will now be referred to offices many miles away - one of which is on the other side of London.
“Aside from the massive disruption this will cause, these remote centres are already renowned for poor customer service and inefficiency in getting vital revenues in. The detailed local knowledge of offices like Norwich is key to tackling the nation’s £35million tax avoidance and non-payment problem and the Public Accounts Committee is already on record as saying service levels at remote call centres “are so bad they are having an adverse impact on the collection of tax revenues.
“Shutting offices like Norwich will end up with less tax collected and deepen the deficit - meaning deeper cuts to our schools, NHS and social services. If this Tory government was really committed to sound public finances they would not be shutting these offices.”
But the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said the cuts would pose a “significant threat” to the operation of HMRC as well as to the working lives of staff. The union called for full public and parliamentary scrutiny of the decision.
Alongside Norwich, Bedford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Colchester, Felixstowe, Harwich and two offices in both Ipswich and Peterborough are set for closure.
Lin Homer, HMRC’s chief executive, said: “HMRC is committed to modern, regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK, with skilled and varied jobs and development opportunities, while also ensuring jobs are spread throughout the UK and not concentrated in the capital.
“HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.”
HMRC said the majority of staff will move to the new regional centres.
There are around 58,000 employees spread over 170 offices across the country, ranging in size from 6,000 staff to fewer than 10.
Employees will be brought together in 13 large regional centres, with moves phased in over 10 years to minimise redundancies.
Richard Edwards, regional secretary of the PCS union, said: “If taxes aren’t collected efficiently the deficit gets worse. If the deficit gets worse then the impact on public spending gets worse.”
“We have to ask will [the current staff] want to uproot and move to London. If they won’t go, and the likelihood is they won’t go, where do you recruit the people with the knowledge and experience to be able to maintain the system, and there is no answer. That is why you need public scrutiny. Everything has to be questioned.”
The 13 new regional centres will be:
– London, South East and East of England - Stratford and Croydon.
– North East - Newcastle
– North West - Manchester and Liverpool
– Yorkshire and the Humber - Leeds
– East Midlands - Nottingham
– West Midlands - Birmingham
– Wales - Cardiff
– Northern Ireland - Belfast
– Scotland - Glasgow and Edinburgh
– South West - Bristol