Opinion Former Article

PCS: Anger over revenue and customs office closures

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) condemned today's announcement by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to go ahead with the closure of 93 offices across the UK and the loss of over 3,400 jobs by 2011.

With the economic picture growing ever bleaker, the union warned that the closures would be bad for business, the public and the taxpayer and would lead to the loss of valuable skills and expertise. The union expressed deep concern that the ability of the department to collect revenues and provide tax advice to the public and local businesses would be further undermined by the closures.

Services are already suffering in HMRC with a drive to axe 25,000 jobs and close over 200 offices, leading to backlogs of post and reports that the department can only chase up those who owe £20,000 or more in tax due to a lack of resources.

17,000 jobs have already been cut since March 2004 and the union fears that skilled and experienced staff will effectively be forced out of a job as they will be unable to relocate or travel to their nearest office.

The office closures breakdown as follows:

* Eastern region - 18 offices to close and 800 jobs to go.
* South West region * 19 offices to close and 835 jobs to go.
* Yorkshire and Humber region * 9 offices to close and 400 jobs to go.
* Northern Ireland * 5 offices to close and 190 jobs to go.
* Scotland * 20 offices to close and 400 to go.
* Wales * 11 offices to close 470 staff to go.
* North West region * 11 offices to close.

Commenting, Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "In these uncertain economic times, these closures and job losses will hit businesses, the public and the communities they serve. Rural areas will be disproportionately hit with face to face tax advice reduced to a bare minimum and quality jobs taken out of local economies. As the recession worsens this will come as a bitter blow to a dedicated workforce and will lead to a loss of valuable knowledge and expertise.

"Job cuts are already damaging the ability of HMRC to function and undermining public confidence in the department. Office closures and job cuts will do nothing to tackle the £21.5 billion worth of uncollected tax and £25 billion lost through tax evasion.The government has to recognise that the erosion of public confidence can only be halted by having enough civil and public servants with the right resources to do the job. As the recession deepens and people become more reliant on public services, the department and the government should stop adding to the growing number of unemployed and call a halt to the office closure and job cuts programme."

ENDS

Notes to editors:

* For further information, interviews and comment please contact Alex Flynn PCS national press officer on 020 7801 2820 or 07833 978216.

* PCS, the Public and Commercial Services Union is the union representing civil and public servants in central government. It has more than 300,000 members in over 200 departments and agencies. It also represents workers in parts of government transferred to the private sector. PCS is the UK's sixth largest union and is affiliated to the TUC. The general secretary is Mark Serwotka and the president is Janice Godrich.

Alex Flynn
National Press Officer
Public and Commercial Services Union
160 Falcon Rd
London SW11 2LN

Direct line: 020 7801 2747
Mobile: 07833 978 216
Fax: 020 7924 1847

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