From Telegraph and Argus, 16th October 2017
Written by Karen Pickering
Top civil servants have admitted no assessment was carried out to see how the loss of 2,000 jobs at tax offices in Bradford and Shipley would impact on the district’s economy, politicians have claimed. The revelation is said to have been made during a meeting between three of the district’s MPs and Jon Thompson, chief executive of HM Revenue & Customs.
Shipley MP Philip Davies said he was “appalled” that no economic impact assessment was carried out.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah and Keighley MP John Grogan also attended the meeting in Westminster, which was held to discuss plans to close two offices in Bradford and one in Shipley, and relocate staff to a regional hub in Leeds as part of a nationwide cost-cutting scheme to save £100 million a year.
The offices in Centenary Court and the Interchange in the city centre and in Victoria Street, Shipley, will close between 2019 and 2021, seeing 2,000 jobs leave the district.
The MPs also raised concerns about transport infrastructure and pointed out that basing the hub in Bradford would be significantly cheaper than in Leeds.
According to Mr Davies, HMRC defended its decision to create the new hubs during the meeting, and said an eight-point criteria was used, including flexibility of travel between hubs, affordable rents and rates, and digital and transport infrastructure.
The new hub is set to be based in Wellington Place in Leeds after the Government signed a 25-year lease on the offices.
Mr Davies said: “I was very disappointed to hear no economic impact assessment had been done on Bradford and Shipley given the enormity of the closure and how many people this affects.
“Disappointed, but not surprised. All three of us wanted an assessment carried out and Mr Thompson has said he will consider it.”
The Shipley MP added that the meeting was “thoroughly unsatisfactory”.
Naz Shah said: “Following this meeting it is clearer to me than ever before the process of decision making has been extremely ill thought at its best and an utter car crash for the people of Bradford.
“It must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”
Meanwhile, Mr Grogan said basing the centre in Bradford would be better deal for taxpayers.
“It seems odd to me that all these new regional HMRC hubs are in big cities with relatively expensive real estate,” he said.
“You don’t need an economics degree to see that the taxpayer could save millions of pounds if they were instead relocated in places where the economy is less strong such as Bradford.
“Part of the rationale for locating big public sector offices should surely be to give a boost to local economies which need it.
“The Airedale line is already bursting at the seams and I do not think it will be able to cope with all those who currently work in Shipley commuting into Leeds.”
Bradford Council leader Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe thanked the district’s MPs for their “cross-party efforts to keep these jobs in Bradford”.
She said: “I’ve personally requested meetings with ministers since this issue first surfaced.
“Unfortunately government has continued to maintain that its civil servants got the decision right.
“However, we will not let off in stating the case for more public sector investment in Bradford because it’s simply not right that too many civil servants are still based in the capital while taking decisions about people’s lives here in Bradford.”
A spokesman for HMRC said the dates for the Bradford offices to be closed and jobs moved to Leeds cannot be made more specific than between 2019 and 2021 at the moment.