Wales

Wrexham MP calls local tax office closure threat 'madness'

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas
Image caption Wrexham MP Ian Lucas has campaigned against the closure of the local tax office since it became under threat in 2015

The decision to transfer almost 400 tax office jobs away from Wrexham with Brexit just months away is "madness", according to the town's MP.

HM Revenue and Customs' (HMRC) processing centre in Wrexham is set for closure in 2021 with staff offered relocation to Liverpool or Cardiff.

Wrexham's Labour MP Ian Lucas met with Shadow Treasury Minister Anneliese Dodds, unions and HMRC staff.

HMRC said it was "transforming" to make a tax authority "fit for the future".

In November 2015, HMRC announced 137 of its regional offices faced closure in a move to centralise operations at 13 hubs in the UK's biggest cities.

Ms Dodds has already raised concerns about the negative impact in towns where local offices have closed, with many staff not able to commute to new regional hubs.

She joined Mr Lucas for the meeting at Wrexham Technology Park where the 380 HMRC jobs are at risk.

"All of the these decisions were made before we had Brexit," added Mr Lucas, after the meeting.

"With all the complexities and tax complication that are going to arise because of the customs issues relating to Brexit, to do this at this particular time is madness.

"It's a decision that needs to be looked at again."

While Brexit negotiations are ongoing, the UK is due to leave the European Union on 29 March.

Image caption There are 380 people employed at the HMRC processing centre in Wrexham

"This is a transfer of jobs and status away from the biggest town in north Wales to Cardiff - that sends a really negative message to the people of north Wales," added Mr Lucas.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) say the daily commute from Wrexham to the new Liverpool hub will be on average three hours.

Union representative Gareth Edwards says HMRC's preferred option for its Wrexham staff is relocation to Liverpool but believes the commute "isn't an attractive prospect".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption HMRC's plan was to shut its 137 regional offices and create 13 hubs it cities

Mr Lucas said a commute to Liverpool is "unrealistic" and "unfair".

"The importance of Wrexham would be diminished by such a move," he added. "And the spending power in our town economy would be reduced. These jobs must be kept in Wrexham."

The PCS believes the loss of "highly skilled and experienced staff cannot be replaced overnight".

"If people don't want to move those skills be lost," added Mr Edwards.

"PCS has real concerns about the ability to retain the staff in the cities given the pressure on public sector pay and how it can compete with private sector businesses.

"PCS also has real concerns over the ability for HMRC to continue its service provision particularly in north Wales with its compliance activity."

HMRC said it was transforming to create a tax authority fit for the future and improving customer service in regional centres where the majority of their staff were already based.

"We will continue to support our people in Wrexham relocating to the Liverpool Regional Centre and in trying to find alternative solutions for those that can't," the HMRC statement added.

"We want to keep as many staff as possible and in 2015 our planning showed that the vast majority of our workforce will either work in a regional centre or see out their career in an existing HMRC office. We are also retaining a Welsh language unit in Porthmadog."

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