MPs must have say on closures – civil servants. By Lamiat Sabin
JOB losses resulting from HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) “absolutely devastating” decision to shut down more than 100 offices should be debated in the Commons, Civil Service union PCS said yesterday.
The closures would pose a “significant threat” to the collection of tax revenue and to staff’s working lives, according to the union.
PCS called for full public and parliamentary scrutiny of the planned closure of 137 offices that HMRC says is part of its decade-long “modernisation programme.”
Thirteen larger regional offices would replace them over the next five years, with the “majority” of 58,000 workers moved in “phases” to minimise job losses, HMRC claimed.
The redundant workers would be replaced by new online functions to help people pay their taxes, it added.
HMRC chief executive Lin Homer claimed that the organisation has “too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices.”
“The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents,” she said.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “No-one should be in any doubt that, if implemented, these proposals would be absolutely devastating for HMRC and the people who work there.”
The announcement comes just a week after the Commons public accounts committee said Tory-imposed cuts to HMRC funding have had an “adverse impact” on the collection of much-needed tax revenue.
At least 11,000 full-time employees have been made redundant since 2010 and customer service is so “abysmal” that half of all calls go unanswered, the committee said.
This is “the wrong time” to shrink HMRC, said Frank Haskew, head of the tax faculty at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
He said: “Service standards are deteriorating, with taxpayers having to spend longer and longer on the phone trying to get through or waiting for their letters to be answered.”
The committee added that HMRC had ignored previous calls to stop “aggressive tax-avoidance.”
Last week the Star reported that regional HMRC offices are owned by Bermuda-registered Mapeley Steps Ltd. Financial reform campaigner Joel Benjamin said that it was hardly a surprise that HMRC is soft on clamping down on non-dom tax-avoiders.