Jobs at risk as valuation office set to shut

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A GOVERNMENT office is to close, which could lead to 10 jobs being relocated out of north Northumberland.

The Valuation Office Agency (VOA) branch in Wagonway Road, Alnwick, is to close next March and Sir Alan Beith MP has challenged top officials at the agency to keep quality jobs in the Alnwick area.

Sir Alan said: “We have already seen good jobs moved from the Alnwick tax office to Longbenton and now the Valuation Office Agency, another branch of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), is planning to close their office in Alnwick.

“I have been told that the Agency plans to relocate staff and work to other existing VOA locations. Given that the nearest other VOA offices are in Newcastle, Durham and Edinburgh it seems to me that the staff will be forced to travel long distances to work or lose their jobs.

“The VOA tell me that they have carried out this review because the lease has come to a break point on the premises in Wagonway Road.

“But I want to know what efforts have been made to find other premises in the Alnwick area to keep these quality jobs in the town.

“I am also concerned about the loss of public access to the Valuation Office Agency, which carries out work relating to property rating for the whole of Northumberland.”

The union that represents HMRC and VOA staff is also against the proposed closure, which follows the announcement in March of five other VOA office closures around the country.

Kevin McHugh, a member of the HMRC group executive committee at the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said that the PCS is opposing the closure and that it would be insisting on a full equality impact assessment.

The Valuation Office Agency is an executive branch of HM Revenue and Customs that is responsible for business rates, council tax, valuations for inheritance tax and capital gains tax.

The Alnwick office is the only branch in Northumberland with the only others in the North East located in Newcastle, Durham and Teesside.

A VOA spokesman said: “Like other organisations, the Valuation Office Agency is looking to make the most efficient use of its resources, including its estate.

“VOA will be vacating its office in Alnwick by March 2012.

“We do not envisage any job loses and will consult with the 10 staff in Alnwick to support them in exploring the options available to them. “We do not expect there to be any effect on the service we provide to our customers.”