'Shabby' threat to Hitchin tax office

A WALK-IN tax enquiry office is to have its hours slashed by the Government according to a union which has called it a very shabby way to treat the public . The Hitchin Revenue and Customs office will have its hours cut from five days a week to just one

A WALK-IN tax enquiry office is to have its hours slashed by the Government according to a union which has called it "a very shabby way to treat the public".

The Hitchin Revenue and Customs office will have its hours cut from five days a week to just one, according to The Public and Commercial Services Union which represents workers at the branch.

A union spokesman said: "Its future is bleak. If this is allowed to go ahead closure will follow. They are pushing closure to reduce their service. There is certainly no intention to make any kind of public splash about it.

"Hitchin office was one of the first stand alone enquiry counters opened by the predecessor Inland Revenue at some cost. Now it seems, just a few years later, that investment in public service made with tax payers' money is being thrown away.

"Managers have privately expressed their disquiet about the reductions in service. They believe that not only is it a very shabby way to treat the public, but they are far from convinced that the figures the department is using as a basis for changes are correct .

"All this in an era when the government is promising to maintain frontline services - someone sitting at a desk answering the public's questions about tax and tax credits, how much more frontline could that be?

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A spokesman for the Revenue and Customs office confirmed that the Hitchin office was under review.

She said: "We are in the process of reviewing the opening patterns for our enquiry centre network, most of which have standard opening hours five days a week. We are doing this because of significant reductions in demand from customers for face-to-face advice on tax and tax credits matters over recent years.

"The review is taking place on a rolling basis starting with a number of centres with low customer footfall, and where maintaining standard opening hours with few customers to see is clearly an inefficient use of our staff time.

"As each centre's opening patterns are reviewed, we will be consulting with the local MPs as well as other representative groups and organisations that have an interest in our service. We are also consulting closely with our staff and the unions as the review rolls forward."

Town centre manager Keith Hoskins said it would not help business in the town if the cuts went ahead.

"It's again a major inconvenience. It's like when we lost the job centre. I know you can do so much more online these days but it's just another thing. When we are tying to encourage people to do all their business locally government doesn't help, does it.

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