The SDLP have described a proposed 12 week consultation by HMRC as a “farcical stunt” and has questioned the government’s commitment to boosting the economy in the north. South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley MLA have reacted angrily to the proposals and have vowed to support the local workforce in Newry. Mr Bradley said: “Staff were brought together yesterday at the HMRC office at Custom House in Newry and were told of plans to offer redeployment or voluntary redundancy in the coming months which will no doubt be followed by compulsory redundancies after this ‘consultation’ exercise. In reality there are little or no opportunities for redeployment. The bottom line is that HMRC and the British government intend to close their operations in Newry either by stealth or by force. The SDLP fundamentally disagree with the approach HMRC is taking and see the proposed closure as driven purely by an unhealthy appetite to make cost savings at the expense of front line services. HMRC have already closed their Tax Office located at Downshire House on Merchants Quay and they have reduced the number of days the Enquiry Office is opened to 3 days per week on a part time basis. The closure of this facility will cut off vital personal support for pensioners, migrant workers and disabled people including those with learning disabilities and both Margaret Ritchie and I have been to Westminster and brought this issue to the Treasury to express our opposition to these proposals.” Ms Ritchie added: “David Cameron and his government are constantly telling us they want to support the Northern Ireland economy and yet they continue to run down and withdraw vital public services and jobs in the local economy, just look at their stance on DVA jobs across Northern Ireland. “Dominic and I and indeed other colleagues have met with Treasury Ministers as we have brought the fight to save these jobs top London and I have spoken about the future of Custom House in Newry to the floor of the House of Commons. We now need the Prime Minister to live up to his commitments to the Northern Ireland Economy, it is all well and good bringing world leaders to Fermanagh for the G8 and encouraging them to invest here and yet at the same time Mr Cameron and his colleagues are withdrawing jobs, it is a bit rich. The SDLP have been and will continue to work with the staff at Custom House in Newry. We will campaign to retain the jobs there.” The Democrat contacted HMRC but did not receive a response at the time of going to press.
8th April 2014