PLANS to close two tax offices could cost the West Lothian economy £1 million each year, union bosses have warned.
The tax collection agency HMRC is planning to shift 1000 jobs from its smaller offices in Bathgate and Livingston to centralised sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as part of wider plans to reduce their sites in Scotland.
The move has been described as a “huge blow” to local businesses, as research by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union and West Lothian Council estimated the average worker spent around £1000 per year in local shops and restaurants.
Neil Findlay, Labour list candidate for Lothian, said: “The proposed closures of HMRC offices in Bathgate and Livingston would be a huge blow to the local economy.
“This is a tax centre which employs a huge number of people from West Lothian and the surrounding area, whose contribution makes a huge difference to the local economy.
“The loss of 1,000 jobs in the areas is not just a blow for these individuals but for the whole community.”
The long commute could force half of the current staff to leave their jobs as 40 per cent have regular caring responsibilities and 10 per cent of employees have a disability which could make moving to the new office unfeasible.
Staff who are able to go to the new centres could face additional travel costs of at least £1300 a year, the union estimated.
Gary Stein, PCS Edinburgh and Lothians chairperson, said: “These proposals pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC, its service to the public and the working lives of staff.
“The threat is so severe, we believe, that as well as entering into genuine negotiations, HMRC must launch a high-profile public consultation and allow its proposals to be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.
“The proposals are absolutely devastating for HMRC and the people currently employed by the department but also for the West Lothian economy.
“We would urge the HMRC to look again at these plans that risk damaging their most vulnerable staff.”
An HMRC spokesman said the proposals were part of an attempt to make the service “fit for the future”.
He said: “We are bringing our people together into 13 regional centres across the UK, which includes centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
“We are taking the next step in creating a tax authority fit for the future delivering better, more modern services to customers and making it harder for the dishonest minority to cheat the system.
“We expect that the majority of staff will able to move from their current offices to the regional centre.
“All our staff will get a one-to-one discussion ahead of the planned move, which will be an opportunity for them to tell us how the move to the regional centre will affect them and to establish what support we can offer.”