HMRC postpones north east office closures

HMRC has made changes in its office closure plans by extending the life of hubs in Washington and Bradford on a transitional basis

The department’s Waterview Park office in Washington near Sunderland, originally due to close in 2025 with staff relocating to the Newcastle Regional Centre, will now remain open for another five years.

The Bradford office in Centenary Court will remain open until 2027, keeping the office open for six more years. The plan was to close in 2020-21 with workers moved to the Leeds Regional Centre.

Both offices will remain open as transitional sites for their respected terms to help meet their future needs and accommodate a larger workforce than previously forecast in 2015, when HMRC started the 10-year transformation programme.

The programme’s aim is to transform the department’s estate from 170 legacy offices to 13 regional centres, five specialist sites, a head office in London and, and nine transitional sites by 2030.

An HMRC spokesperson told Accountancy Daily: ‘To help us meet these new challenges, we have needed a larger workforce than originally forecast in 2015.

‘We now have around 65,000 colleagues (60,000 full-time equivalent) and need to accommodate them.’

The Bradford office currently accommodates around 840 full-time equivalent employees but has space for more from Shipley. Washington currently has around 2,100 full time staff.

Colin Casse, HMRC’s locations programme director, said: ‘This commitment means more people will be able to stay with us for longer and helps us keep an even stronger presence in the north of England.

‘We remain committed to the overall strategy of moving to regional centres and we always knew that in a programme of this size and duration our plans would need to remain flexible to help us meet new challenges.’

The PCS (Public and Commercial Service Union) welcomed this decision and has said that the department has begun to recognise that its 2015 plan to cut the entire estate to just 17 offices needs to be kept under review.

The union believes that the closure plan will be insufficient to meet HMRC’s staffing requirements going forward.

However, at the same time as deciding to delay closure of the two offices, HMRC is also launching voluntary redundancy programmes in 22 workplaces nationwide.

The redundancy scheme will be on the 2010 terms reinstated by PCS and will launch in May 2020.

Martin Kelsey, PCS revenue and customs group secretary said: ‘HMRC’s decision to significantly extend the life of Bradford and Washington, bringing with it the retention of thousands of years of tax and customs experience, is clearly a positive step by the department.

‘What we now need is for the department to work with PCS to explore how we can further retain vital expertise in HMRC, to allow us to handle the many fast-moving circumstances we face. 

‘Seismic events such as Brexit and covid-19 show that it’s vital that the department’s strategy should be flexible enough to adapt to fast-changing circumstances; and dogmatically pursuing a five-year old plan, drawn-up in a different time, can only put at risk HMRC’s ability to deliver its most critical functions.’

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