HM Revenue and Customs has announced it is delaying the closure of offices in Yorkshire and Sunderland to cope with its increased headcount.
The tax collection department’s Centenary Court offices in Bradford – where 840 full time staff currently work – had been due to close in the 2020-21 financial year, with staff moving to HMRC’s new Leeds Regional Centre as part of the hubs programme.
Now HMRC has said that the base will remain open until 2027 and could actually see its headcount rise as it becomes a “transitional site”, with space available for staff who could move from its Shipley office, which is also set to close under 2015’s hubs programme.
HMRC’s Waterview Park office in Washington had been due to close in 2024-25 as part of the hubs programme, with workers transferring to the Newcastle Regional Centre at Benton Park View. But bosses said yesterday that the centre – which is a base for 2,100 staff – would now remain open until 2030.
Colin Casse, who is director of HMRC’s Locations Programme, said the Bradford and Washington closure date extensions were driven by the fact that the department had a bigger workforce – now amounting to some 60,000 full-time-equivalent staff – than had been anticipated in 2015.
“While we remain committed to the overall strategy of moving to regional centres, 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,” he said.
Casse added that keeping the Washington and Bradford offices open would also allow staff who could not move to the new regional centres to stay working for the department for longer.
“We’ve always said we want as many people as possible to stay with us,” he said.
The hubs programme revolves around the consolidation of some 170 offices into 13 regional centres, five specialist sites and a London HQ. But it was drawn up months before the European Union referendum – the result of which has seen the civil service’s headcount increase by tens of thousands of staff.
HMRC said it had increased the size of its Liverpool, Nottingham and Stratford regional centres, confirmed an Ipswich specialist site and a new transitional site in Preston as part of flexibilities in the programme.
Martin Kelsey, Revenue and Customs group secretary at the PCS union, said HMRC’s decision on Bradford and Washington was “clearly a positive” step that would retain “thousands of years” of tax and customs experience.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Kelsey noted that HMRC is due to launch a consultation on a new nationwide voluntary redundancy programme across 22 workplaces in May and offer packages based on 2010 Civil Service Compensation Scheme terms. HMRC confirmed to CSW that the scheme would be launched on 28 May.