Many MPs in Parliament, including myself, are currently campaigning to keep local HM Revenue & Customs offices open across the country.
The HMRC office in Peterborough employs around 200 tax workers, who will face losing their jobs unless they agree to move to a new ‘regional hub’ in Stratford, East London. Many workers and offices across the region face a similar fate, as the list of proposed closures mean that there will not be a single HMRC office in the East of England besides this new ‘super site’ in the capital, which was announced in 2015.
Have the government ever stopped to consider that many staff may not be able to relocate to London? Or afford the travel costs to get there every day? HMRC and the government should be consulting with their hard-working staff and trade unions on this drastic change before ploughing ahead with a centralisation effort that rips jobs from communities up and down the country.
Those working in the Peterborough office can rest assured that I refuse to sit back and watch HMRC take these high-quality jobs from our city. A PCS survey of members working at HMRC highlighted that they are unanimously opposed to the closure, and I wish to be at the forefront of the efforts to save these jobs. Not only will I be demanding a meeting with HMRC, but I will be taking this issue to Parliament alongside other MPs whose constituencies also risk losing HMRC offices.
A report by the Committee of Public Accounts is highly critical of the plan to move offices into fewer ‘regional hubs’ across the country. Not only do they believe that the plan won’t be as cost-effective as HMRC predict, but they also state that the plan could severely disrupt day-to-day tax-collecting operations and customer service availability.
Another scenario that should be considered is that many staff who are working on vital Brexit work as we approach March 2019, such as mapping out new customs arrangements, could also face redundancy. Sadly, this restructuring effort follows a trend that many smaller towns and cities across the country will recognise. Instead of bringing high-quality jobs into areas like Peterborough that desperately need them, the government is far more interested in kowtowing to the City of London rather than offering opportunities to the communities surrounding it.
There is no need for these hubs in big cities such as London, Birmingham or Manchester – whereas in places like Peterborough, Ipswich and Lincoln – these jobs are vital for the local economy. While there may be a small financial benefit in centralising HMRC efforts, this does not negate the damage it could do to cities like Peterborough.