Cumbernauld Tax Office ‘assurances’ sought

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 10:00 on 8 March 2015

Politics    SNP    Labour    HMRC    Tax Office

Cumbernauld Tax Office may be closed, it has been revealed. Picture: courtesy of Bill Henry.

A BATTLE of politician against politician has been ignited after the news that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs are looking to centralise taxation services in Scotland – proposals which would see Cumbernauld’s HMRC Tax Office site shut and the staff relocated somewhere in Glasgow.

The row over the site’s security has been engulfed by local SNP opposition politicians claiming incumbent MP Gregg McClymont lied during the independence referendum campaign, when he claimed that independence would threaten approximately 1,400 jobs at the site.

Bringing the Labour ‘Vote No’ battle bus to Cumbernauld in August 2014, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East’s Labour MP, Gregg McClymont, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the then Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Jim Murphy MP and the then Scottish Labour deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, outside Cumbernauld Tax Office, to issue the proclamation that independence would threaten the future of the site. 

At the time, Mr McClymont claimed: “…if Scotland became independent it would lose more than 90 per cent of its market immediately – which then poses a very obvious question about jobs.”

The publicity stunt was quickly trashed by the Tax Officer’s Public and Commercial Services union branch, with PCS Cumbernauld Revenue and Customs Office Secretary calling the move “unacceptable”.

Mr Miller, at the time, said: “It is unacceptable for Gregg McClymont, Jim Murphy and Anas Sarwar to make statements which seek to distort facts and are tantamount to deceiving the public and the employees of the local tax office on job security as a result of a Yes vote in the forthcoming independence referendum.

“They are well aware that it was their party which initiated the process of job cuts, attacks on pensions and pay and the extension of privatisation which directly affects our members in Cumbernauld. The continuation of the UK cuts means that 43 of our members face redundancy and an uncertain future. The planned privatisation of jobs in the Cumbernauld site alongside the 20,000 job cuts budgeted for by HMRC does not envisage a better future for our members or for the public.”

The fight had already came after a House of Commons debate, secured by Labour MP, Gregg McClymont, on July 22nd, during which the discussion focused more on independence that the soon-to-be expired Tax Office building lease.

During the debate, Mr McClymont said: “The future of HMRC jobs in Scotland is an issue close to my heart. It is hard to grow up and live in my constituency without developing personal connections with what is known locally simply as the tax office. A number of my friends and family have worked or work at HMRC Cumbernauld, and it is by some distance the largest employer in my constituency, currently employing about 1,400 staff working across the spectrum of tax, benefits, debt management and the like. It is the UK’s largest tax office. Hon. Members have doubtless at one time or another had communication with HMRC Cumbernauld—not, I hasten to add, because of anything untoward, but simply because that is where so many tax communications are sent from and to.”

The Labour man went on to discuss the question of independence – and what was then the upcoming referendum– adding: “In 57 days, Scotland will make its decision on whether to remain in the United Kingdom with England, Wales and Northern Ireland or whether to leave, and Scots are weighing up a wide array of issues and interests as they come to a judgment on that decision. That is why every survey of Scottish public opinion illuminates the public’s desire for more information and facts on the issues in hand. Some things are, by definition, uncertain about what would happen if Scotland was to leave the United Kingdom—things that will depend on negotiations with the rest of the United Kingdom, which will depend on the future performance of the Scottish economy in particular.”

The MP’s comments were trashed by Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn, who claimed that Mr McClymont had let the UK coalition government “off the hook” by failing to mention the austerity measures which threatened thousands of public sector jobs, including forty positions in the mailroom of Cumbernauld Tax Office.

At the time, the SNP MSP said: “Having secured a debate on job security at the Tax Office at a time when the Tory cuts are threating 40 local posts I find it remarkable that Mr McClymont chose to focus on anything else in his contribution.  

“As the independence debate goes on, we have become used to various Labour figures teaming up with their Tory pay masters in the No campaign to ridicule the idea of Scotland standing on its own two feet.”

He added: “This was a wasted opportunity. Mr McClymont’s opposition to independence is getting in the way of standing up for local jobs.”

Now, in 2015, and the with the referendum almost seen as history by most Scots, the fight over Cumbernauld Tax Office, and its future, has been reignited by news that the site is potentially up for a flitting, with HMRC apparently looking at proposals which would see the site closed and the jobs moved to a centralised centre in Glasgow. 

As yet nothing has been confirmed, but Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East MP has been left red-faced after the news broke, despite his words last year that voting ‘No’ would be the only guarantee of the protecting the site. 

The area’s MP has apparently met with top HMRC officials to secure assurances on the future of HMRC Cumbernauld beyond 2020, after assurances from treasury minister David Gauke in September 2011 that HMRC would “retain a presence [in Cumbernauld] until at least 2020.”

In late February 2015, McClymont confirmed that he would meet top officials from HMRC in London this month to ask for detail on the long term plans and seek assurances that all jobs are safe. The meeting was said to include the Director of Workforce Management who heads up staffing arrangements.

In a statement, the MP merely confirmed that: “I am meeting with officials to raise with them the concerns which have been circulating regarding future planning beyond 2020. I want assurances that all jobs are safe”.