By Emily Walker
From Swindon Advertiser
MORE than 200 people working for the tax office in Swindon will lose their jobs by 2010.
Union leaders are in discussions this week, following the announcement of plans to leave just a handful of staff working for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Swindon office by 2010.
The Public and Commercial Services union has vowed the fight the closure of the Farnsby Street office that employs 210 workers on its payroll.
PCS’s Swindon chairman Phil Robbins said: “The government has said it plans to close the Swindon tax office by 2010. “The nearest offices will be Southampton, Birmingham and Bristol. Not only will that put people’s jobs in serious jeopardy, but people using the service could also have to travel long distances.”
Mr Robbins said the government programme to make the tax service leaner was the result of more people using new technology to pay tax bills, get advice and manage debts.
Staff at Swindon’s HMRC office were told about the threat to their jobs last Thursday.“We would have thought in a town as big as Swindon it would have been viable to keep this office open. More people in the area are now making payments with debit cards or online.
But not everyone can do that. And it is more likely to be the same people who would struggle to travel to Bristol to meet someone in person, ” said Mr Robbins.
Union members have not decided to strike yet, but if a walkout went ahead, there could be hold-ups in tax bills being paid, and P45s being sent out and rebates being settled.
The union said the service already had more than a million tax credit repayments, tax returns, p45s, and tax codes in a backlog of unposted mail, and job cuts would only make problems worse.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the tax service would be “unfit” if 15 per cent of its budget was axed between 2008 and 2011. Mr Serwotka said: “PCS will fight these job cuts and office closures, not only on behalf of our members but to protect the public service we provide, often to the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
An HMRC spokeswoman said:
“No concrete decisions have been made at the moment and staff in Swindon will get a chance to give feedback from February next year.
Swindon is part of a cluster of offices within a 25-mile radius so we would be looking to relocate staff within 25 miles.
People working similar jobs will work in the same office, which makes sense and saves money.
In places where we already have an inquiry centre, the inquiry service will be kept within a few miles. So people will be able to make inquiries in Swindon, but there would be a few people rather than few hundred working in the office.”