THE future of Sunderland’s city centre tax offices will be decided within two weeks.
Members of the PCS union fighting to keep hundreds of jobs in Sunderland city centre have been told a decision will be announced on Wednesday, May 23 during their union conference.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) unveiled plans earlier this year 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.
Staff mounted a campaign against the plans, which they say could cost city centre businesses more than £10,000 a week and had originally been told a decision would be made at the end of April.
PCS Northumberland and Durham branch president Mark Taylor said campaigners were keeping an open mind about the significance of the delay.
“In some ways, we are hoping and thinking ‘Why has it been delayed? Is it because of the political pressure?’.
“On the other side, is it that they have decided to reveal the decision while the PCS conference is on? Is it a case of everybody is down in Brighton for the conference when the announcement is made?”
Plans to close Gilbridge and Shackleton Houses first emerged in 2007, but were rejected after a campaign led by then-Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin. The present MP for Sunderland city centre, Julie Elliott, has also pledged to fight the plan.
The proposals compounded concerns that too many businesses were leaving the city in favour of “out of town” locations, leading to the loss of vital custom.
Sunderland City Council has also objected saying the plans contradict the authority’s economic masterplan, which makes increasing the number of people working in the city centre a priority.