Anger as 500 workers face '˜up to four-hour travel times' when HMRC office moves to Newcastle
Government workers could face giving up their jobs if they have to spend up to four hours travelling due to an office move.
Almost 500 staff at the HM Revenue and Custom’s customer service centre in Peterlee will have to commute to Newcastle to keep their jobs after it closes its site between 2020 and 2021 and centralises services.
The HMRC has been unable to say how many are affected overall.
Easington MP Grahame Morris met with employees to discuss the changes, which could see them working up to 30 miles from their existing base in Emerald Court, Bracken Hill.
He said the National Audit Office has warned the plan is “unrealistic” and unlikely to save as much as expected, as costs for the Newcastle centre continue to rise, while Universal Credit means more people need support.
He said: “I share the workers’ palpable anger at the Government’s ill-thought out plans to centralise the services delivered by HMRC.
“Relocating these jobs to Newcastle is questionable cost cutting exercise.
“Peterlee HMRC provide an exemplary service, which simply will cannot be replicated in an impersonal and inaccessible regional centre.
“The closure of the Peterlee office will lead to some staff having to give up their jobs, and those who accept transfer will see their family life disrupted having to travel to and from Newcastle each day for work, adding up to four hours travel time.
“Taken alongside the pay restraint of the past decade, which has cut real term wages, it is not difficult to see why HMRC staff are fed up and demoralised.
“I would like to offer them hope, however, while a Tory Government remains in power, the public sector remains under threat through pay restraint and damaging cuts that will result in the loss of valuable experience at HMRC.
“This decision will weaken the economy in East Durham, taking jobs and money out of the area.”
HMRC said it expects most to be within a “reasonable travelling distance” of Newcastle and its Washington site, with workshops and “voluntary early release for those at risk of redundancy.”
A spokesperson said: “HMRC is transforming into a smaller, more highly-skilled organisation offering modern, digital services.
“In November 2015, we announced a 10-year transformation programme to create a tax authority fit for the future, by creating 13 new modern regional centres serving every nation and region in the UK.”