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Council To Lobby Against Decision To Close Wick Tax Office (18/12/08)
The Highland Council is to step up its campaign to persuade HM Revenue and Customs and the UK Government to reverse their decision to close the HMRC Office in Wick in 2012.
The Wick office, which employs 23 staff, is scheduled to be closed as part of a national restructure which will see the closure of 20 sites across Scotland.
At a meeting of The Highland Council, members unanimously agreed to work with partner agencies to campaign for the retention of the Wick office and identify appropriate specialist areas of work that HMRC or the UK Government could undertake in Wick to retain jobs in the area.
Council Convener Sandy Park said: “We are very disappointed with the decision taken by HMRC especially when in our response to the consultation we clearly expressed strong opposition to any closure and provided a substantial amount of evidence on the hugely detrimental economic impact that would affect the whole area if the office was to close. In fact we made the point that it would actually be of benefit to HMRC to develop its operations in Wick. In our reply, we put forward ideas for opportunities to increase the scope of the work carried out to fully utilise the skills of the staff.”
Councillor Ian Ross, Chairman of the Planning Environment and Development Committee, added: “Wick can become a remote specialist centre and we need to actively promote this option. We also need to do this quickly as there will be an inevitable drift of staff as they seek to protect their future and seek alternative employment. As a Council we need to agree to work with others to build a strong case for Wick and actively lobby, seeking early meetings with the appropriate Westminster Ministers.”
Councillor Bill Fernie, who used to work at the HMRC office in Wick and remembered when there was a staff of 35, agreed the council should lobby on two fronts – to save existing jobs and to attract a specialist Government activity to Wick.
He said: “If the closure were to go ahead there is no doubt that it would have a significant adverse economic impact on Wick. We must campaign hard to get the decision reversed and to save the jobs.”