Ulster Unionist Derry City and Strabane District Councillor, Alderman Derek Hussey, has said he is extremely concerned that HMRC is to close all regional offices in Northern Ireland and have one centralised office in Belfast.
He said: “Two years ago HMRC announced a voluntary exit scheme.
“At that time Ulster Unionist representatives, including Tom Elliott, then MLA/now MP, warned that it could be the beginning of the end for a number of HMRC offices. Unfortunately these warnings have been proved correct.
“The latest HMRC announcement means that during the next six years we will see the closure of offices in Newry, Coleraine, Craigavon, Enniskillen, Lisburn and Londonderry, leaving a centralised office service in Belfast.
“This is a major concern, particularly in the west of the province, where this will leave a huge gap in HMRC front line customer service provision. In recent weeks we have heard of the lack of customer service support, with helpline calls not being answered. This decision will certainly not help local businesses and the wider public.
“There appears to be a gradual removal of public sector services away from the West. This will be a double blow to the area - the loss of jobs and the loss of front line customer services.
“I understand that the centralised office in Belfast will be a new purpose built office. If this is the case, was there any business case investigated as to the centralised facilities being located elsewhere - perhaps Northern Ireland’s second city of Londonderry or indeed Strabane?”
He concluded: “I welcome that Ulster Unionist representatives are already speaking with HMRC officials and are intent on making further representations, including to the Secretary of State and Chancellor of the Exchequer through our Westminster MPs.”