Newry tax office jobs safe

January 31, 2012

By Christine Keighery

After months of speculation regarding the retention of staff at Newry’s Custom House in Carnbane, the announcement came last week that all 140 posts were safe and Custom House will remain open.

Fears arose last September that the Newry office was pegged for closure when HMRC announced streamlining measures for future locations that did not include the Newry site.  Since then, local politicians have lobbied to safeguard the jobs, arguing that the Newry office could become a cost effective “one-stop-shop” of HMRC services.

The Carnbane office of HMRC is one of the largest public service employers in the region and is the construction industry processing centre for the UK.

SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley, who, along with Margaret Ritchie, met with the Treasury Minister to seek assurance about the retention of the office, welcomed the confirmation that the tax office staff will retain their jobs until a further review in 2015.

Following last week’s announcement, Mr Bradley said,

“Newry is the location for processing of Construction Industry Returns but we believed that it should also be the registration centre and that, in order to provide improved customer service and accountability, a telephone call centre should also be located at the Newry site.

“We felt that this would create a one-stop-shop for all those people in the construction industry and, on behalf of local workers, we presented a strong business case on the issue.

“We have seen public sector jobs haemorrhage out of this city over the last decade. This is a trend that has to stop and the retention of the tax office jobs will herald, not only the start of that process, but will also raise the profile of Newry as much more than a retail centre.

“The SDLP will continue to lobby for Newry to be retained as a strategic location within the proposals for 2020. Newry is a regional economic hub within the regional development strategy.

“We need a diverse economic base – that means fighting to protect the public sector jobs we have and fighting for more public sector jobs.

“I trust that our representations will bear fruit. But both Margaret Ritchie and I, and indeed all our councillors and MLA’s, can assure staff of our continued commitment to the retention of local jobs.”

In a statement, a spokesperson from HMRC said,

“HMRC has been drawing up plans to meet its 2010 Spending Review settlement and in June we made an announcement to staff to share a first look at the size and shape of the department for 2015 and beyond.  Our plans are not yet complete but one thing we could say with certainty at that stage was that the department would definitely be remaining at 16 key locations until at least 2020.  At that time we made it clear that this should not be interpreted to mean that offices outside of those locations were to close or that we could guarantee the future of any office, including all of those within the key 16 towns or cities.

“Since then our plans have developed and in our update on 14 September we could add to those 16 centres 48 other offices where we will maintain a presence for the foreseeable future and at least until 2015.  In the same announcement we identified eight new office closure proposals we are considering for 2013/14.  Custom House in Newry is not among them and the 145 jobs there have not been placed at risk.

“Following our announcement last week, this has been increased to 82 specific locations where HMRC will have a presence at least until 2015, and now includes Coleraine, Craigavon, Enniskillen and Newry.

“Office closures will not lead to any job reductions beyond those already required by the Spending Review.”