Wrexham’s HMRC office will close in 2021 with 350 jobs being lost or relocated.
This morning it has been confirmed that by 2020 HMRC will close three offices in Wales (Swansea, Porthmadog and Wrexham) with the Wrexham branch being the last to close in 2021.
Cardiff has been confirmed as the new ‘regional centre’ for Wales, with another ‘regional’ centre being created in Liverpool that could also service North Wales.
Lin Homer, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said: “HMRC is committed to modern, regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK, with skilled and varied jobs and development opportunities, while also ensuring jobs are spread throughout the UK and not concentrated in the capital.
“HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.
“The new regional centres will bring our staff together in more modern and cost-effective buildings in areas with lower rents. They will also make a big contribution to the cities where they are based, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s commitment for a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.”
Wrexham.com asked Wrexham Council this morning if they had been notified or been engaged with the process and decision over the closure plans. Also, we asked if the decision had not yet been taken on the location of a ‘regional hub’ if they would support a Wrexham bid to become such a centre.
We were told that Wrexham Council would not be commenting on the HMRC closures.
Shortly before the announcement was confirmed, Wrexham MP Ian Lucas tweeted us a link to a record in Hansard where in September he asked MP Alun Cairns (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales): ” Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is talking about shifting jobs from Wrexham in north Wales to Cardiff. Will the Minister meet me to ensure that north Wales has civil service jobs and that the Tories in Wales do not sell north Wales down the river again?”
Mr Cairns replied: “I do not accept the premise of the question. The Government’s commitment to north Wales is significant. We are looking at the improvement of the railway line across north Wales, and the hon. Gentleman will be more than aware of the impact that the prison will have in north Wales.
“Of course we want to ensure that all the jobs are as efficient as possible. I will happily write to the hon. Gentleman on the detail of the point that he has brought to the attention of the House.”
Mr Lucas said today: “I have been pushing Ministers to listen and to change their mind about their proposals to close Wrexham’s tax office throughout this year. I raised the issue with Ministers in the Commons again at the start of this Autumn’s Commons session and, yet again, they refused to engage with the question.
“If local stakeholders – such as the council – wanted to engage with the Government to help save these jobs for Wrexham, the level of information that Ministers were willing to share was crucial. I raised the issue on the floor of the Commons, put down written questions – yet they have chosen to ignore them.
“Now staff are being told their jobs will be centralised in Cardiff and the vague plans Ministers referred to of centralising these jobs have become a stark reality for hundreds of Wrexham people.
“Conservative Ministers talk about devolving power, yet this decision centralises it. They talk about efficiency – yet increase central bureaucracy. And they talk about backing North Wales – but this decision slashes hundreds of jobs from our region at a time when private sector jobs are under extreme pressure.
“Their actions show just how hollow the Tories’ words are.”
Speaking about the announcement, Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM, said: “Successive London Governments of all colours have cut tax office staff over the past decade and more. The centralisation process has accelerated and shows no understanding or thought for workers based in the North. Are they expected to re-locate to Liverpool, Telford or Cardiff?
“The truth is that hundreds of Welsh jobs will be lost, just a day after we heard of rising unemployment. We’re being hit disproportionately and Wrexham’s fragile economy will be hit hard by these job losses.
“Many people will be furious that these jobs are being lost while big corporations are avoiding paying their fair share. As a direct result of these cuts, there will be fewer tax inspectors to hold the wealthy and big corporations to account, so it’s not only a hit for the local economy but also for the wider economy.
“The only people who will be cheering this will be those offshoring their wealth and evading tax rather than contributing to the Treasury as the vast majority of us have to.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union said of the national news on the HMRC closures: “We believe the plans, being announced while parliament is in recess, “pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC, its service to the public and the working lives of staff”.
“The threat is so severe, we believe, that as well as entering into genuine negotiations, it says HMRC must launch a high-profile public consultation and allow its proposals to be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.”
Andrew Atkinson, Conservative Candidate for the forthcoming Assembly elections, and who’s party announced cuts in Whitehall that will be up to 40% from each department meaning the likes of the HMRC have to find additional savings, has said today: “I can understand why moves like this are considered as more and more of our interactions are done online and over the phone. If this is to be the way forward then HMRC will have to dramatically improve their telephone answering times and service.”
“Wrexham could be one of the new regional centres, we need to be ambitious for Wrexham and North Wales and not see Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff as a better option.
“We have a solid work force here, highly skilled and trained in these roles and a very accessible town that could easily be a hub for North Wales and the North west. Wrexham and the North should not be overlooked in favour of South Wales.”
North Wales’ Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Aled Roberts added: “On the morning that the Welsh Government are trying to secure over a billion investment in the Cardiff City Region – which already contains areas with the best economic record in Wales – the UK government announces that they are to close a tax office in Wrexham and jobs will be moved to Cardiff and Liverpool.
“We need to stand up and campaign for North Wales because at the moment we are being ignored by the power brokers in Cardiff and Westminster. Projects like Wrexham’s Prison are no more than the scraps left behind after most investment goes elsewhere.
“UK and Welsh Government Ministers come to Wales for individual investment announcements but there is no strategy to boost North Wales.
“The Welsh Government in Cardiff seem obsessed about South Wales where they have bought an airport at a cost of over £50m, proposed a new section of the M4 at a cost of over £1 billion, a metro at a cost of £4billion and over £1 billion of investment in a Cardiff City Region jointly funded by the Welsh and UK Governments.”
Pic: Wrexham’s HMRC office this morning.
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