Scottish Trade Union Congress supports campaign to save Cumbernauld tax office

Wilma Wheatley presents the motion about the need to save Cumbernauld tax office to the STUC in Dundee
Wilma Wheatley presents the motion about the need to save Cumbernauld tax office to the STUC in Dundee

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Trades Council have successfully had a motion passed at this year’s Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) calling for a working group to be set up with the objective of keeping the Cumbernauld Tax Office open.

HMRC announced in November 2015 a proposal to close its office in Cumbernauld and relocate the 1300 staff to a new centre in Glasgow.

The council and the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union carried out a survey among staff on the potential economic impact of the closure.

The report indicated staff, on average, would have to spend an extra five per cent of their wages on travel to Glasgow and 63 per cent of staff would spend an extra hour-and-a-half travelling each day.

More than half of staff (54.5 per cent) have childcare or other caring responsibilities, which would be negatively affected by the extra travel time as well as costing an average of £40 a week (12 per cent of take home pay).

In addition, 39 per cent of staff who stated they have a health condition or impairment said this would be likely to affect their ability to travel to Glasgow city centre.

The report also shows a significant impact on Cumbernauld town centre, with a potential annual loss of £700,700 to local supermarkets.

Wilma Wheatley moved motion 49 on the campaign to retain an HMRC presence in Cumbernauld at the STUC in Dundee, while simultaneously launching the #SaveCumbernauldTaxOffice campaign.

She said: “Cumbernauld tax office has been an integral part of the community in providing employment to the town for over 40 years.

“The range of tasks that the 1300 workforce have performed over the years has ranged from being one of the main banking centres for the exchequer from the 1970s till the 1970s to providing support for tax credits claimants and a whole range of tasks that ensures tax is allocated correctly and is available for all the public services we all take for granted.

“It is shocking that in the guise of digitalisation and the move to a next generation of technological advance that the workforce and the people of Cumbernauld will be disadvantaged by the Building our Future project initiated by the UK Government.

“The proposed closure of the Cumbernauld tax office would devastate our local economy. The PCS’s economic impact assessment has indicated the massive and severe consequences to Cumbernauld if the largest employer in the town were to be closed including putting at jeopardy hundreds of other jobs in the local town centre.

“The PCS Revenue and Customs branch have developed campaigning material to engage with the local community and to broaden out our struggle to those who are also be damaged by any potential closure not least of all our members with childcare responsibilities or disabilities who will be discarded if any move to Glasgow of the workforce were to come to pass.

“When the management announcement was made to close virtually all of the HMRC offices and relocate to new city centre hubs in 13 locations congress offered its support and opposition to those closures.

“In those discussions with PCS full-timers each area has been encouraged to develop their own individual campaigns.

“Cumbernauld believes the impact from such a closure to the people of Cumbernauld and the tax office staff requires urgent steps including the setting up of an action group from the trade union movement and broadening out to political parties and community groups.

“Whilst the circumstances are not entirely similar the impact on Dundee of the closure of the Michelin plant led to action being taken to forestall the damage of this community.

“For us in Cumbernauld the loss of 1300 jobs will have no less an impact and demands that the trade union movement be at the front of the campaign to keep these jobs in our community.

“We do not see this action group as a means to mitigate the job losses by acting in a manner to provide other forms of employment into the town which no doubt would be even lower paid, non-union temporary jobs, but campaigning for keeping the full-time recognised trade union jobs we already have.

“And if that means taking industrial action as our colleagues in England have so be it. We have already discussed previous with the PCS National Disputes Committee the possibility of overtime bans and we can look to develop what action we can take in the future.

“But we also need to bring everyone in the Cumbernauld area on to our side to save our community and to save our town – we have lost Burroughs, we have lost OKI – we cannot allow the Cumbernauld Tax Office to close and our motion is a prelude to a real fight back to challenge the cuts.”

Cumbernauld’s MSP Jamie Hepburn and MP Stuart McDonald were delighted delegates to the STUC supported the motion.

Mr Hepburn said: “We know from our close work with the PCS over a number of years now that these proposals would have a severe impact on staff and on Cumbernauld town centre.

“Our successful campaign for an economic impact assessment showed the importance of these jobs to the town and we know from speaking to workforce representatives that commuting is just not feasible for some staff due to caring, childcare or other commitments.

“This motion was a welcome opportunity for the entire Scottish trade union movement to show their support.”

Mr McDonald added: “I’ve repeatedly pressed the UK government on their ill-thought out plans to centralise these jobs into Glasgow city centre.

“We know that the government is already looking at expanding the HMRC workforce due to the Brexit workload and it does not make sense to close an office the size of Cumbernauld. This motion is a welcome contribution to the campaign to keep these jobs in Cumbernauld.”

Also giving their support are Cumbernauld East councillor Gillian Fannan and Central Scotland list MSP Mark Griffin.

Councillor Fannan said: “Closing the HMRC office in Cumbernauld is not only bad for the workers that will be relocated, it will also have a devastating impact on the town.

“The council’s economic impact assessment shows that the damage to the local economy will be over £5.2m a year if this closure goes ahead, with a further potential loss of over 800 jobs in local businesses.”

Mr Griffin added: “I am pleased the motion proposed by the PCS to the congress was successful, and that all of our trade union partners agreed to join the campaign to keep HMRC in Cumbernauld.”

For more information about the campaign and to get involved visit www.facebook.com/SaveCumbernauldTaxOffice.