Several dozen Bootle workers and residents voiced their determination to fight for jobs and the local community at a recent public meeting held at Bootle Town Hall.
The meeting was called to formally launch the ‘Battle for Bootle’ campaign, which was initiated by Bootle branches of the PCS union. The campaign is a response to plans by HM Revenue & Customs to close all 170 of its offices in favour of 13 regional hubs, which the union says will cost thousands of jobs.
Chairing the meeting Gerry Noble, a member of the PCS Group Executive and a local resident, said: “Although saving 2,500 PCS jobs is fundamental to the campaign, it’s about so much more than that.
“We’re all aware of the decline in the local community. You only have to walk around the Strand to see the amount of shops that have shut down and it’s really quite sad. But when you consider the density of public sector workers in Bootle these closures are going to massively impact on everyone.
“This will affect investment in the community and local economy. How long will MerseyTravel going to keep a main depot in Bootle if it’s run down and all the shops are shut? How many housing authorities will want to build in Bootle when there are no buyers? It will affect schools. This isn’t just the tax man’s job, it affects everyone.”
The meeting was addressed by PCS reps who work locally, as well as by local MP Peter Dowd, who has pledged his support for the campaign after raising the issue in parliament.
Peter said: “This is such an important issue that I felt I had to make every effort to be here. I had raised this issue in the House of Commons, with George Osborne, as it is absolutely crucial for Bootle as we’ve had all these jobs in the area. Around 700 staff live in Bootle, but it’s not just the effect on jobs but on the whole of Bootle Town Centre. The sum is greater than its parts, and even if those jobs go just three or four miles away the effect will be pretty grim.”
The meeting also heard contributions from a number of local residents and workers, who spoke of the devastating effect of the decision on jobs, on the local economy, and on the community. Particularly heartfelt was Harry Sandle, owner of the Jawbone Tavern, who was moved to tears as he spoke of Bootle’s proud history and all the area stood to lose if 3,000 jobs were snatched away.
However, those at the meeting also voiced a determination to fight. Phil Dickens, Battle for Bootle’s current campaign secretary, said: “We’re not here to argue that the regional centre should be in Bootle instead of Liverpool, or otherwise barter over the details of this plan. We oppose it wholesale, as an attack on jobs, on our community, and on society with the decimation of public services.
“What we need to look at now is how we can raise the profile of this issue, what we can do to cause disruption and inconvenience for HMRC and for the government, and ultimately how we can make the plans unworkable. What we need to remember is that we can win this fight.”
The campaign will be holding monthly planning meetings from January, which it says all supporters are welcome to attend, and it will be looking at holding a demonstration against the closures in the New Year.
Sign up to the Battle for Bootle mailing list here.
Sign the local petition to save offices in Bootle and Netherton here.
Sign the parliamentary petition against HMRC closures here.