Staff to go due to online business hike

Colum Eastwood has urged a rethink on the jobs threat.
Colum Eastwood has urged a rethink on the jobs threat.

Derry tax office staff are to be cut due to a rise in online business, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has said.

A total of 77 staff at the Derry Personal Taxes office are eligible for the “voluntary exits” which were offered today, a spokesperson for HMRC told the Journal.

“We are not closing any offices today,” she said.

However, the spokesperson added: “An increasing number of customers are choosing to do business with us through our on-line services, which has reduced our need for physical sites. This change has seen the nature of our work shift away from the mass processing work of the past to the more specialist, but less labour-intensive, roles required in effective policing of the tax system.

“As a result some areas of our work do not require as many staff, so we are offering targeted voluntary exits to staff in 58 locations.”

In a statement, the Public and Commercial Services Union said the department needs more resources not less to deal with tax evasion totalling £70 billion a year, and another £50 billion lost through avoidance and non-collection.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “When more than £120 billion is slipping through HMRC’s fingers every year, it makes absolutely no sense to cut resources even further.

“The government should be investing in the department that collects the taxes that fund all our other vital public services.”

The union boss added: “Our advice to those affected is to not make any hasty decisions and wait for union meetings on their site.”

SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said the announcement is a “devastating blow to the highly-skilled and committed staff at Duncreggan Road”.

“Redundancies are always unwelcome, but redundancies at Christmas are without doubt the worst.

“I call on the Treasury Minister responsible for HMRC, David Gauke, to rethink this decision given the financial impact it will have on our already fragile economy in the North West.”

Mr Eastwood called on the Executive to “step up to the plate” and lobby the Treasury Ministers in Whitehall to protect the Derry posts.

Sinn Fein MLA Raymond McCartney said it is “a very concerning development”.

“We have been contacted by a number of workers worried about their future. We will be seeking an urgent meeting with workers and management to clarify the situation,” he said.