Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Tax Office Closure Plans 'Are Unrealistic'

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Tax Office Closure Plans 'Are Unrealistic'

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES CAIN james.cain@trinitymirror.com @JIMMYMCAIN

CONTROVERSIAL plans to close tax offices in the North-east with the loss of 700 jobs on Teesside will save far less money than promised, a spending watchdog has warned.

More than 700 civil service jobs on Teesside are still set to be axed with the closure of two tax offices in Middlesbrough and one in Stockton.

But the National Audit Office has warned HM Revenue and Customs that its plan is "unrealistic" - and urged HMRC to consider whether the plans should go ahead at all.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: "Looking ahead, HMRC has acknowledged its original plan for regional centres was unrealistic and is now re-considering the scope and timing of the programme.

"It should step back and consider whether this strategy still best supports its wider business transformation and will deliver the sustainable cost savings it set out to achieve in the long run."

It should consider strategy sustainable " The planned job losses come afterAudit Amyas HMRC announced plans in 2015 to close Middlesbrough's Russell Street and Eustace House offices by 2020 and Stockton's George Stephenson House office by 2021.

Local offices across the region will instead be concentrated in a regional headquarters in Newcastle to cut costs.

Newcastle will house one of 13 new regional centres, while HMRC will close 137 smaller offices across the country, under the plans announced in 2015.

The changes were originally expected to save PS499m by 2025/26 but in a new report, the National Audit Office said the expected savings had now been reduced to PS212m.

And HMRC said the estimated running costs for the new regional buildings had risen dramatically to the tune of PS300m a year more than expected.

The report said: "Since it submitted its business case for the 2015 spending review settlement, HMRC's estimate of its estate costs over the next 10 years has risen by nearly PS600m (22%), more than half of which is due to higher than anticipated running costs for its new buildings. …

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