Tax office closure will cost Portsmouth dearly, says union

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SHOPS in Portsmouth will lose out to the tune of more than £850,000 if a city centre tax office closes, a union has warned.

The Public and Commercial Services Union carried out research during a week in June and one in September to find out how much money employees at the Wingfield House tax office spend.

The building is earmarked for closure by March 2015 as a result of spending cuts imposed by the government, with staff relocating to Lynx House, another HM Revenue and Customs site in Cosham.

Altogether, the two offices employ close to 1,500 staff and the union fears around 400 Portsmouth jobs are at risk because there is not enough space to accommodate them all.

In the survey of spending in the city conducted by union representatives over two weeks in separate months, it was found 400 staff would spend more than £854,680 a year in local shops, cafes, restaurants and gyms.

David Hansford, who works at Wingfield House and is branch organiser/campaigns officer of the Portsdown Vectis branch, which covers the two offices, said: ‘Closing Wingfield House would be a major blow to Portsmouth, not just for staff but also for the public and traders. At a time when we are told that tackling our economic problems is the number one priority it makes absolutely no sense to throw 400 people out of work and take almost £1million from the local economy. We are determined to fight to prevent this from happening.’

Portsmouth City Council has opposed the closure of Wingfield House, passing a motion urging HMRC to keep it open.

In a statement, HMRC said that closing the office, which employs 550 people, was not about job losses and it is seeking to avoid compulsory redundancies.

But a spokesman for the PCS union added: ‘Losing this amount of money every year would be a major blow to the Portsmouth economy, and the union is pressing for Wingfield House to remain open.

‘Local branch representatives and staff have previously distributed letters to the local traders and have canvassed members of staff and the local community to write to their MPs about the closure.’