HM Revenue and Customs axes offices

MORE than 200 jobs at HM Revenue and Customs are at risk in Suffolk and north Essex as five local offices are closed, it has emerged.

MORE than 200 jobs at HM Revenue and Customs are at risk in Suffolk and north Essex as five local offices are closed, it has emerged.

Offices are due to be vacated early in 2009 with 234 members of staff facing uncertainty about the future of their jobs.

In Suffolk two offices are closing in Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury with a total of 82 jobs under threat, while in Essex, offices in Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea and Witham will be vacated with 152 people at risk.

The local Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union representative, Rex Tyrrell, condemned the move, warning of a lower level of service.


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He added there were no new job losses and the closures were part of an ongoing process started in 2006.

“In 2006 a reduction in the nationwide workforce by 25,000 in a period to go up to 2011 was announced. And as a simplistic logic if the department had fewer staff they need fewer offices.

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“There are no new job losses today; these are part of the ongoing process.

“The level of service will almost certainly be reduced and much of the face-to-face service will be lost in towns like Bury St Edmunds and Sudbury where the revenue and customs department want to keep enquiry centres in the area open. It will mean somebody from Ipswich travelling out to these areas now,” Mr Tyrrell added.

A spokesman for HM Revenue and Customs said the aim was to relocate as many staff as possible into new jobs in neighbouring offices.

“The closures may not mean job losses, each member of staff will have detailed discussions to work out their options,” he said. “We are doing our best to re-locate staff. If people are able to travel to another office we will be paying daily travel assistance.”

Mr Tyrrell raised concerns about the possible relocation of some staff, and said it could cause real problems for those in part time employment or those who care for others.

“The revenue and customs department has an agreement with the trade union that they will not relocate anybody outside a reasonable daily travel distance of an hour to work and an hour home again.

“The difficulty comes with the practicalities for people and how it will affect their work, life balance.

“The reality of the situation is that part-time workers and people who have care responsibilities could be the hardest hit by relocation. An extra two hours travel a day is a huge additional burden.”

Bernard Jenkin MP for North Essex said: “I am deeply concerned that this closure is taking place. It is not only a huge blow to the 79 employees, but to the local people who relied on their services.”

John McMillan, president of the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, claimed: “It is not the time to be taking people's jobs away. Revenue and customs are offering increasingly worse services. And if there is a problem a local office is very useful.”

Suffolk

Triton House in Bury St Edmunds - 49 jobs

Crown Building in Sudbury - 33 jobs

Essex

Northgate House in Colchester - 79 jobs

Harlech House in Clacton-on-Sea - 37 jobs

Iceni House in Witham - 36 jobs

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