HMRC announcement: Tax offices in Washington, Sunderland and Peterlee to close

Sunderland MP Julie Elliott (third left) supporting the Public and Commercial Services Union outside Gillbridge House Tax Office on Friday morning.
Sunderland MP Julie Elliott (third left) supporting the Public and Commercial Services Union outside Gillbridge House Tax Office on Friday morning.

Tax offices in Washington, Sunderland and Peterlee are set to close with jobs moving to a new regional centre in Newcastle, HMRC has said.

The announcement means staff Waterside House at Sunderland Enterprise Park, Waterview Park in Washington, and Emerald court in Peterlee, will have to relocate to Longbenton or face redundancy unless alternative roles can be found for them either in or outside of the civil service.

Waterview Park will initially become a transitional centre, taking in some staff from offices scheduled to close.

HMRC called the move the next step in its ten-year modernisation programme to create a tax authority “fit for the future”, with a new regional centre in Newcastle by 2018-19.

It says it supports the Government’s commitment to building a ‘Northern Powerhouse’, with the north having around 40 per cent of HMRC staff located there by 2020-21, with between 6,000 and 6,300 full-time equivalent employees.

The modernisation programme, now at the halfway point, includes investment in new online services, data analytics, new compliance techniques, new skills and new ways of working, to make it easier for the honest majority of customers to pay their tax, including by improving customer service, and harder for the dishonest minority to cheat the system. The changes have already resulted in over 80 per cent of people filing their Self Assessment returns online and given customers new, simple ways to check their payments, make changes or find answers to questions.

HMRC’s workforce in the region is currently spread throughout seven offices, which range in size from more than 6,000 people to fewer than 10.

Where offices are a long way from a regional centre and it is not possible for employees to move to work in one, HMRC says it will do everything it reasonably can to help them to find new roles, either elsewhere in the civil service, or outside, in order to minimise redundancies.

The remaining offices in the North East will close by 2024-25, as most employees move into the new regional centre.

Chief executive Lin Homer said: “HMRC is committed to modern, regional centres serving every region and nation in the UK, with skilled and varied jobs and development opportunities, while also ensuring jobs are spread throughout the UK and not concentrated in the capital.

“HMRC has too many expensive, isolated and outdated offices. This makes it difficult for us to collaborate, modernise our ways of working, and make the changes we need to transform our service to customers and clamp down further on the minority who try to cheat the system.

“The new regional centre in Newcastle will bring our staff together in a modern and cost-effective building. It will also make a big contribution to the economy of the North East, providing high-quality, skilled jobs and supporting the Government’s commitment to a national recovery that benefits all parts of the UK.”

Other North East tax offices facing the chop are Russell Street and Eustace House in Middlesbrough, George Stephenson House in Stockton.