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Sunday, 7 December 2008

Tax Office closure

Following an announcement on Thursday 4th December its now clear that central government is withdrawing jobs from rural areas including Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has announced its accommodation reviews and the bad news is that the Aberystwyth Office will close and be an enquiry only office. This is a reversal on the original proposals where Merthyr Tydfil originally pencilled for closure is now saved at the expense of Aberystwyth.
An Impact Assessment has been carried out for the Aberystwyth Office and some of its conclusions and statements are questionable. Here are some paragraphs from the imact assessment document and important questions and comments.
1.4. Staff Crown Buildings accommodates a total of 25 staff. During consultation, concerns around additional travelling for staff have been raised. Further examination of individual circumstances will be undertaken through one to one discussions between managers and staff. Where a staff member is unable to relocate to the nearest long term HMRC office within reasonable daily travel managers will discuss other available options with them. No staff will be required to relocate beyond reasonable daily travel.
How do they define 'reasonable' in a rural context like that relevant to Ceredigion?
1.7. Finance The vacation of this office will contribute to estimated estate savings of £4m in Wales between 2007 and 2012.
What precisely is the contribution arising from the closure of the Aberystwyth Office?
2.1. Office Proposal HMRC proposes to rationalise its estate in Wales with the aim of making more effective and efficient use of office space and bringing teams closer together within and across business units. The original proposal was to retain Crown Buildings, Aberystwyth, but following feasibility work the intention is now to withdraw from this office. Enquiry centre services will remain at Crown Buildings or relocate to an alternative location nearby.
What precisely were the factors that made them change their mind?
4.1. Member of Parliament and Constituency Crown Buildings is within the parliamentary constituency of Ceredigion. The Member of Parliament is Mr Mark Williams (Liberal Democrat). This MP met with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury to discuss the proposals.
This is a non-devolved matter where the MP should take a pro-active lead not simply be reactive all the time. We need to know what exactly was done appart from the usual "horrified...annoyed....angry...dismayed" type of press release. Not a particularly successful outcome this time, simmilar to the lobbying to keep Post Offices open. All those PO's in Ceredigion scheduled to be shut were shut. I just hope he didn't make matters worse with the Tax Office as well.
4.2. Local Economy Crown Buildings is situated within the local authority of Ceredigion. The unemployment rate for Ceredigion is 4.9%, against the UK national average of 5.3%. The table below shows the relative job density for Ceredigion, Wales and the UK as a whole. Job density is a ratio of total jobs to working-age population and provides a measure of the economic health of an area. Total jobs includes employees, self-employed, government supported trainees and HM Forces.
Table 1 - Job Density
Ceredigion 0.78
Wales 0.78
UK 0.84
There are around 3,895 employers in Ceredigion employing approximately 25,800 people. There are 25 HMRC employees located at Crown Buildings, which is less than 1% of those employed within the local authority area. It is therefore reasonable to infer that the local economy is not dependent on the HMRC presence at this office.
There may be some impact on local businesses which at present benefit from the custom of HMRC staff based at Crown Buildings. Any negative impact that may be caused by HMRC withdrawal from this location is expected to be temporary, lasting until such time as the building is reoccupied by another employer.
Who is actively looking for alternative occupiers for the building?
4.5. External Engagement On 13 June 2008 Workforce Change wrote to 11 local authorities and two town councils in Wales about the proposals for the cluster and individual locations. A six week period for responses was provided. Comments were sought on subjects including local/regional economic factors, regeneration plans, wider employer activity and plans for new or improved transport links. Ten responses were received from Torfaen County Borough Council, Pontypool Community Council, Wrexham County Borough Council, Bridgend County Borough Council, Rhyl Town Council, Denbighshire County Council, Aberystwyth Town Council, Brecon Town Council, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council and Pembrokeshire County Council. Responses received included comments on the impact of the proposed closures on the local economy in particular the impact of losing jobs. All concerns raised have been taken into account in making our recommendations to Ministers.
Was there no response from Ceredigion County Council or were they not asked?
There is a critical need to set up a coordinated response here brining in all necessary institutions.

1 comment:

Cardijohn said...

Not the first time it has been noted how useless Mark Williams is as an MP.
Have you seen this..