PCS members in several parts of the country stage spontaneous walkouts after government announced closure of 13 tax offices, threatening 1,300 jobs

Tim Lezard

PCS-Euston-Tower-walkoutPCS members in several parts of the country have staged spontaneous walkouts after the government announced the closure of 13 tax offices and the threat of 1,300 redundancies at the HMRC

Staff in London (pictured. Image courtesy of PCS), Nottingham and Derby left their offices minutes after the lunchtime announcement yesterday to take part in short ‘car park meetings’.

PCS and opposition political parties say the closures are part of a trial that could lead to all remaining UK tax offices shutting down as soon as the middle of 2014.

HM Revenue and Customs has said, from June to September, 13 enquiry centres in the north east of England will close and has launched a consultation on the future of the network as a whole, which employs more than 1,300 workers.

Officials say staff have already been told it is “highly likely” all the offices will close.

A PCS rep in Newcastle said some staff were in tears and “absolutely shocked” following the annoucement.

Ian Lowther, PCS assistant branch secretary for Revenue and Customs in the East Midlands, told UnionNews: “Staff here have seen the writing on the wall for some time.

“The relocation of offices to inaccessible, out-of-town centres means that people do not know where their local tax office is any longer. So it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, the government has set us up to fail.”

The union says opening hours have been reduced in some 250 local tax offices in recent years. The government now intends to shift all tax advice and enquiry work into call centres, with people only offered a face to face meeting in exceptional circumstances.

It says ‘biased research’ has been presented to ministers to secure agreement to the closures, overturning a previous ministerial commitment to maintain local offices.

Secretary of the Euston Tower branch in London, Dave Plummer, said: “It is part of [Cabinet Secretary] Frances Maude’s ‘Digital By Default’ policy. But this is never going to work for people who don’t have, or who cannot have, digital access.

“The government is promising a clamp-down on tax avoidance, but people need access to a tax office, you need to know where the tax office is if you’re going to use it.”

The union is urging members of the public to take part in HMRC’s consultation, which ends on 24 May 2013, and to write to their MPs.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Closing all face to face tax offices would break the link between people in communities and an essential public service they rely on.

“If, as we fear, flawed research has been used to justify these closure plans then ministers must put an immediate stop to them.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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