MP calls for rethink on Sheffield tax office move to Leeds following damning new report

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A Sheffield MP has urged the Government to review the move of the city's tax office operations to Leeds, which will result in the loss of up to 500 jobs.

The call came during an urgent question in the House of Commons, following damning conclusions from the National Audit Office into the nationwide restructuring programme which has led to the controversial move.

Under proposed plans from the Government, the Sheffield city centre tax office on Young Street will close and the operation would move 37 miles up the M1 to Leeds.

The NAO report said up to 38,000 staff from HM Revenue and Custom will be expected to move large distances as part of a reorganisation.

Calling the plan 'unrealistic' the NAO report highlighted the cost of the move had risen by £594m in just 14 months, almost half of which is the expense of running the new buildings. They also highlighted that the move is expected to see the loss of up to 5,000 experienced tax professionals who are 'unwilling to relocate'.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said the HMRC can 'ill afford to lose 5,000 staff' with 'customer service already suffering'.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh called for a rethink on the plans following a new report from the National Audit Office. Picture: Parliament TV

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh called for a rethink on the plans following a new report from the National Audit Office. Picture: Parliament TV

Commenting after the Urgent Statement, Ms Haigh said:“HMRC are finding that their plan to put all tax officials into a regional base is unworkable and costs of the relocation project are exploding as the higher costs of property in regional centres like Leeds become clear.

“Many of the Sheffield tax office staff already commute large distances and they simply cannot relocate and travel long distances every day. That’s why so many are choosing to leave all across the country. Any small business or taxpayer will tell you that trying to get through to the tax authority is already difficult, so we can ill afford to lose any more experienced tax professionals.”

Responding to Ms Haigh in Parliament, Jane Ellision, financial secretary to the treasury said: "A very careful process has been gone through. Of course as we all will read the report and reflect on it and the HMRC will want to respond in detail but a lot of thought has gone into choosing these regional centres.

"I acknowledge some of these people will not be able to make a move because the travel will be too far and it's very much the case we want to keep these experienced staff and the people who cannot move with HMRC will be a variety of different levels within the organisation.

Jane Ellison, financial secretary to the treasury, responding to Ms Haigh's question. Picture: Parliament TV

Jane Ellison, financial secretary to the treasury, responding to Ms Haigh's question. Picture: Parliament TV

"Where we can keep these skills at the service of the taxpayer through other Government departments we obviously will try to."