Lisburn Councillor Alexander Redpath has slammed a decision by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom (HMRC) to close its regional office in Lisburn.
The Hillsborough Road office, Moira House, which houses 110 staff, is scheduled to close in 2019-2020 and will be one of the last regional offices to close ahead of the centralisation in Belfast.
Mr Redpath said the closure “flies in the face of so called government strategies to de-centralise the civil service”.
However, the Director General of Business Tax, Jim Harra, said the move was part of a UK wide ten year management programme.
“We are moving increasingly into doing everything online,” explained Mr Harra. “The current system of 170 regional offices, some of which are very small, reflects how we used to work and is not fit for the future.
“We have long since moved from the model of local tax offices which deal only with local people.
“This decision will not have come as a surprise to staff in Lisburn as we have been holding consultations with staff over the past eighteen months.
“In the case of Lisburn, people accepted it all very professionally. The majority of people will be moved to Belfast and provided with financial support to travel for up to five years. We will be sitting down with each individual employee and discussing their options.”
Mr Harra said the HMRC expects to employ additional staff following the centralisation of staff in Belfast. “For Northern Ireland we expect to employ 1300-1600 staff, which will mean more jobs,” continued Mr Harra. “We currently employ just under 1100.”
Councillor Alexander Redpath said he was “appalled” by the decision.
“This will further centralise the civil service in Belfast leading to more congestion, more pressure on parking and more hours wasted commuting,” said Mr Redpath.
“It will also have the effect of removing footfall from Lisburn thus disadvantaging local businesses. This decision flies in the face of so called government strategies to de-centralise the civil service.
“This will also detach HMRC from the local community and make it more difficult for local people to deal with HMRC.”
“This is particularly damaging as the HMRC phoneline has recently been panned by a parliamentary committee and has one of the worst performance ratings of any government phone line.”