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Tax and customs office closures

PUBLISHED: 10:28 05 December 2008 | UPDATED: 21:56 05 July 2010

Four tax and customs offices are set to close in Norfolk with more than 200 staff expected to transfer to work elsewhere, it emerged last night.

But union leaders warned a longer commute to work would force many low-paid workers who could not afford to travel out of a job.

Four tax and customs offices are set to close in Norfolk with more than 200 staff expected to transfer to work elsewhere, it emerged last night.

But union leaders warned a longer commute to work would force many low-paid workers who could not afford to travel out of a job.

The move is part of a slimming down of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) which is expected to see 25,000 jobs lost and more than 200 offices closed across the country by 2011.

Eighteen tax and customs offices are set to close across East Anglia, with the loss of 800 jobs. But Norfolk appeared to have been spared the worst with no job losses - despite the closure of the Custom House at King's Lynn's Alexandra Dock, Roseberry Court in Norwich, Havenbridge House in Yarmouth and a tax office in Church Street, Dereham.

Rex Tyrrell, branch secretary for the eastern region with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) , said: “In today's climate you could take the view the news could have been far harsher for people.

“But one of the knock-on effects will be there are people who will not find it easy to travel to a new location so they're forcing people out of a job by expecting them to move somewhere they can't get to easily.”

The 200 staff affected by the closures - three in Lynn, 45 in Norwich, 126 in Yarmouth and 28 in Dereham - will be expected to work from other offices in Norwich and King's Lynn which will remain open.

HMRC has told staff in Yarmouth that the transfer to Norwich will begin next April and the office will close by April 2010.

PCS union representative Colin Fox, who works at Havenbridge House, said the decision would signal unemployment for many because it was unrealistic for lowly-paid clerical workers to commute to Norwich.

“Half of our staff in Yarmouth also have caring responsibilities and many others are part-timers. We feel we had valid arguments for saving the office but we have not been listened to,” he said.

“They would have been aware that many staff would not be able to afford to transfer to Norwich and would have to look for other jobs, an option becoming far more difficult.”

Lina Curtis, the PCS representative in Dereham, said: “Although HMRC will provide support with travel costs for a time, on civil service salaries staff will have to think whether it is realistic in the longer term to travel to work in Norwich or King's Lynn.”

Breckland Labour group leader and Dereham town councillor Robin Goreham said: “I'm surprised and disappointed that HMRC have seen fit to take this action which deprives the people of Dereham and district of a very valuable service. My understanding was that, if the Church Street offices had to close, an attempt would be made to provide an alternative office presence within the town. If this is not to be the case, then I believe this to be a wrong decision and one which doesn't take into account the needs of a rural market town.”

He had met management and staff representatives and the closure was also opposed by Mid Norfolk MP Keith Simpson and Breckland Council.

Nationally, the 300,000-strong PCS Union said the closures would undermine the department's ability to collect taxes and offer advice to the public and businesses.

In a written ministerial statement financial secretary to the treasury Stephen Timms said: “These have not been easy decisions. However, the overriding consideration has to be the department's need to address new and challenging customer demands by restructuring its business and estate in the most effective and efficient way possible.”

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