HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will close all of its 170 offices across the UK and replace them with 13 regional hubs. The major restructuring plan is poised to put thousands of government jobs at risk.
According to the Telegraph, the overhaul means there will not be a tax office in south-west England west of Bristol, with hardly any coverage in East Anglia.
In the ten years since HMRC replaced Inland Revenue it has slashed its staff numbers down by nearly half to 56,000. The agency has been under pressure for years to severely cut costs.
Chancellor George Osborne has called for £80m savings from HMRC this year and is working on cutting day-to-day departmental spending by as much as 40 percent. In the last financial year HMRC cut £210m from its costs.
HMRC shut the last of its 281 walk-in help centres last year which added pressure on its telephone services. The agency ended up having to hire 3,000 more workers to operate phones as the volume of calls was too much to handle.
HMRC is expected to tell its workers that it will “minimise redundancies wherever possible”.
Someone familiar with the matter told Reuters in an email that the restructuring “will mean fewer, but larger and more modern offices that will help us to deliver better services to our customers and bring in more tax revenue for public services”.
According to the Telegraph, an HMRC spokesman said: “[On Thursday] we will inform our staff about the future direction of our estate. We have been clear for some time that this will mean fewer, but larger and more modern offices that will help us to deliver better services to our customers and bring in more tax revenue for public services. These changes are part of an ongoing modernisation programme begun several years ago and will take place over the next 10 years.”