Unions round on Minister over Sunderland tax office closures

Sunderland Tax Office, HMRC Enquiry Office, Gilbridge House, Sunderland.'The clock is accurate.
Sunderland Tax Office, HMRC Enquiry Office, Gilbridge House, Sunderland.'The clock is accurate.
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UNION leaders have slammed Government claims the loss of hundreds of tax offices jobs would have a “minimal” impact on their nearby economies.

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

The move 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.

The civil service union PCS conducted a survey of members to establish how much they contribute to the Wearside economy, focusing on spending in the city centre.

Union staff at Gilbridge and Shacketon Houses who were asked to keep track of their city centre expenditure for two weeks spent more than £22,000 across more than 100 of its businesses.

But a senior minister has dismissed the effect the loss of the jobs would have on the city.

Responding to a written question from Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott about what assessment had been carried out of economic effects of the plan, Exchequer Secretary David Gauke said: “In HMRC’s assessment, any economic effect on the surrounding area arising from the closure of Gilbridge House is likely to be minimal and temporary, lasting until such time as the building receives a new tenant.”

PCS Northumberland and Durham Branch Secretary Michael Dellow said the comments were an indication of how unaware ministers were of the reality of the situation.

“How anybody can suggest the loss of around £600,000 a year from this office alone is minimal is beyond me,” he said.

“All it does is go further to show how out of touch they are, if they think that amount of money is minimal to a city centre.”

He also condemned the Government’s refusal to make public the results of its own feasibility study into the closure plan.

“HMRC will be publishing some information from the study’s findings on its own internal intranet site,” he said. “If there is a good reason for the closure, why not publish everything in full?

“Why has it got to be chosen pieces on the intranet site?”

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