HM Revenue & Customs has signed a 25-year lease on office space in Stratford that will accommodate 3,800 of the department’s employees from late 2020.
The top eight floors of a building on Westfield Avenue have been confirmed as the location of the ninth regional centre to be agreed by the tax agency so far, in its plan to shut 170 local offices and replace them with a total of 13 centres.
The new “state-of-the-art intelligence” centre in Stratford will also house a “customer laboratory” to help HMRC test new services, by observing online interactions with the tax agency for example.
HMRC’s office closures programme has been criticised by MPs for locking taxpayers into long leases with no break clauses, and not saving taxpayers as much money as was originally intended.
The department insisted, with regard to the Stratford office, that it was “satisfied the deal represents the best value for money for the taxpayer”.
Jon Thompson, HMRC’s chief executive, said the agency had a “long-established presence in London” and the Stratford office marked the next step in its “transformation into a modern, digitally-advanced tax authority”.
“It will bring compliance teams together with sophisticated IT and data analytics to increase our effectiveness in cracking down on tax cheats,” he said.
The move will also make HMRC an important contributor to the economy and communities around Stratford, he added.
Thompson told parliament last month that an Infrastructure and Projects Authority review had given the programme an ‘amber’ risk rating, with specific concerns raised around staff engagement. But he insisted he was confident in the long-term sustainability of the £500m ten-year project.
It is part of a wider scheme, the Government Hubs Programme, which aims to radically reduce the number of government buildings from around 800 to 200 over the next five years through the consolidation of many operations into 18-22 regional centres. At least half of those will incorporate HMRC regional centres.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We are investing in multi-departmental hubs across the UK so that even more civil servants will be able to work in modern, flexible office space. Hubs will operate in London and around the country, empowering civil servants to work in smarter ways to deliver better public services from every corner of the UK.”