Cost to city centre of tax jobs move

Mark Taylor, president of the Northumberland and Durham branch of the PCS Union, with Ashleigh Ivison, Gilbridge House Office representative, at an open meeting in the Indigo Rooms, Sunderland, about the proposed closure of the HMRC office.

Mark Taylor, president of the Northumberland and Durham branch of the PCS Union, with Ashleigh Ivison, Gilbridge House Office representative, at an open meeting in the Indigo Rooms, Sunderland, about the proposed closure of the HMRC office.

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SHIPPING out tax office jobs could cost city centre businesses more than £10,000 a week, campaigners claimed today.

HM Revenue and Customs has unveiled plans to close Gilbridge House and Shackleton House in the centre of Sunderland and Weardale House next to Washington Galleries.

The proposal would see more than 300 staff from Sunderland and about 200 from Washington moved to Waterside House at Sunderland Enterprise Park, or Waterview House next to the wildfowl centre in Washington.

A handful of workers would be forced to relocate to the former Child Benefit Centre, in Longbenton.

Now civil service union PCS has hit back with a survey showing how much its members contribute to the Wearside economy.

Union staff at Gilbridge and Shacketon Houses were asked to keep track of their city centre spending for two weeks.

The results show they spent more than £22,000 across more than 100 city businesses, from £1.80 at Angel’s Fish and Chips to £3,703 with Thomson Holiday Shop.

Northumberland and Durham branch president Mark Taylor said the union believed the results undervalued the offices’ annual contribution, if anything.

“Twenty-two thousand pounds is what we spent over just two weeks,” he said.

“And it is February, when everybody is skint. What if you throw in Christmas time, the times we go out for leaving does or social events?”

The union has targeted city councillors for support, and Mr Taylor urged members at a meeting at the Indigo Rooms, opposite Gilbridge House, to do everything possible to oppose the closure plan.

“We have to do our bit to stop this,” he said.

“That is all we can do. There are no guarantees, but all we can do is give it our best shot.”

The union plans to meet with the North East Chamber of Commerce to get city centre traders on board.

Chamber head of member relations Jonathan Walker said: “We are keen to meet with Mr Taylor to discuss the issue, and as such will be inviting him to meet with some of our Wearside members.”

l To sign a petition against the proposals, go to http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/28416

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