A senior North Lanarkshire councillor has compared the effect on the Cumbernauld area of losing one of its main employers to a thermonuclear attack.
Cumbernauld South councillor Allan Graham believes if plans to close the town’s tax centre, where some 1300 staff currently work, were realised the economic effect on Cumbernauld and Kilsyth would be a disaster akin to unleashing a weapon of mass destruction.
Speaking at the Enterprise and Growth committee, of which he is the convener, Councillor Graham said: “As someone who has lived in Cumbernauld for 57 years, this would be like dropping an H-bomb on the town.”
In 2015 HMRC announced its intentions to close numerous tax offices around the UK and relocate staff to 13 regional centres.
With Cumbernauld identified as a target for closure, the news has caused a great deal of concern among staff and in the wider community.
Surveys of tax office staff carried out by the PCS trade union indicate that Cumbernauld’s supermarkets would lose more than £700,000 per year if these workers were relocated, and that the same people also spend more than £200,000 on lunches provided by local businesses.
Councillor Graham said: “This campaign against the closure of HMRC has been two years of trying to get the UK Government to listen.
“They have the council’s economic impact assessment and this survey shows just how badly our communities will be affected. It’s time they listened to the evidence and shelved their plans.”
Almost 60 per cent of staff earn less than £20,000 a year at HMRC in Cumbernauld, which after tax and National Insurance gives a weekly take home pay of £325.
If staff are moved to Glasgow, they will have to spend on average an additional £17 per week to travel to work.
Cumbernauld East councillor Gillian Fannan said: “The Westminster Government should abandon its plans to close the HMRC office in Cumbernauld.
“As this survey shows, the closure would have a devastating impact on the workforce, many of whom currently live in Cumbernauld and the surrounding area, as well as on the local economy.
“Almost everyone in Cumbernauld knows someone who works at HMRC and the town is united in demanding that the office remains open.
“My colleagues and I will continue to work with PCS to keep the pressure on the Government to reverse this terrible decision.”
Neil McGrory - Local Democracy Reporting Service