Defiant Bootle campaign marches for jobs as Osborne delivers cuts Budget

As Chancellor George Osborne delivered his latest round of cuts, workers and residents in Bootle marched in defence of jobs.

The demonstration was called by the Battle for Bootle, a campaign set up to unite members of the PCS union and the local community against the proposed closure of HM Revenue & Customs offices in the area. The move puts jobs at risk as well as threatening the local community.

The protest coincided with George Osborne announcing a further £3.5 billion off cuts to government departments and £1.2 billion in welfare cuts so that higher earners can be gifted with reduced tax bills.

Roughly 90 protesters gathered at South Park, across the road from Hugh Baird College, before leading a loud and angry march down Stanley Road to The Triad, one of the local tax offices facing closure.

Traffic was unable to move along the road as marchers and onlookers were addressed by speakers at the end of the march. This included local MP Peter Dowd, PCS representative Gerry Noble and local business owner Dave Asbridge.

Peter said: “The Tories proposal to move tax office staff out of Bootle is appalling. As many as 3,000 jobs could go from Bootle town centre which will devastate it.”

Gerry, a Bootle resident as well as a member of the union’s HMRC Group Executive Committee, said: “It was really good to see so many people out and making their voices heard for our campaign today. This is just the start.

“George Osborne is cutting tax offices when there is £130 billion in evaded and uncollected tax to help his millionaire mates. We saw this today with cuts to benefits to pay for tax breaks for the rich. But he’s got a fight on his hands – a fight we intend to win!”

Dave, who runs the successful local car boot sale, said: “As an ex-Bootle civil servant who now runs a business in Bootle it’s concerning that the government are attempting to erode jobs by moving them away from Bootle.

“Bootle has been a hub for civil service jobs for decades and it just doesn’t make sense to hamper the recovery stratagy for business by taking away over 3000 working people from Bootle’s town centre. This will deplete businesses who all rely on HMRC staff and other civil service departments for their income. If you take the workforce out of Bootle you will only hamper Bootle’s community.

The campaign will be holding its next planning meeting on Tuesday 12 April, at 6pm in the Jawbone Tavern, where future campaign activity will be on the agenda. You can RSVP on Facebook here.

Hundreds show support for PCS campaign against HMRC cuts

Hundreds of supporters and dozens of MPs showed their support for the PCS campaign against HMRC office closures and job cuts.

The rally outside parliament  on 1 March to show solidarity with HMRC members was attended by hundreds of people, many holding PCS flags, who braved the wet weather. They heard from shadow shancellor of the exchequer John McDonnell MP, Chris Stephens MP (the new PCS parliamentary group chair) and our general secretary, Mark Serwotka.

All spoke of their opposition to the department’s destructive plans, which threaten thousands of jobs and aim to close all 160 HMRC offices and move them out of towns into regional centres miles away from current locations.

In November 2015, HMRC announced its plans to shut all its offices and open 13 regional hubs and 4 specialist centres putting the future of thousands of staff at risk given many staff will not be able to relocate to new regional hubs due to them being outside reasonable daily travel.

These proposals pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC, its service to the public and the working lives of staff. The threat is so severe, we believe, that as well as entering into genuine negotiations, HMRC must launch a high-profile public consultation and allow its proposals to be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

Local presence vital

MPs and tax experts have previously supported our view that a visible, local HMRC presence is essential to maintaining confidence in our tax system and ensure taxpayers comply with their obligations. The proposals under the HMRC ‘plan’ called “Building our future” would not only be absolutely devastating for HMRC and the people currently employed by the deparment but also for the provision of local services.

The shadow chancellor told the lunchtime rally: “The last thing you do if you want to close the tax gap is close offices and cut staff.”

Mark said the government should invest in HMRC to “cut the tax gap not workers’ jobs.” He also said that cuts to HMRC were “part of a picture of cuts across the civil service.”

Following the rally we had our best ever parliamentary briefing session inside the House of Commons with more than 80 MPs in attendance. PCS members, some of whom had travelled hundreds of miles, were able to explain to their MP the impact of the attacks on their livelihoods and communities.

We have also asked MPs to sign a House of Commons early day motion that calls on the government to suspend the closures and hold a comprehensive consultation.

Support the campaign

Attend our Budget Day demonstration – Wednesday 16 March, assemble 12.30pm, South Park.

RSVP on Facebook here and on 38 Degrees here.

Sign and share the petition against the closures here

Tweet to #Battle4Bootle and #KeepJobsLocal

Budget Day Demonstration

The Battle for Bootle Campaign has called for a public demonstration on Wednesday 16 March, to coincide with the Chancellor delivering the Budget.

At its first planning meeting the campaign group, which was set up to oppose plans to close all of the local tax offices, voted in favour of the protest as a way to show the town’s opposition to plans which will cost hundreds of jobs locally and thousands nationally.

HM Revenue & Customs announced in November that all of its 170 offices nationwide would close by 2020, to be replaced by 13 regional centres. HMRC’s own figures estimate that 1 in 4 jobs will be lost in the North West alone.

The Department recently announced 153 compulsory redundancies ahead of the closures, and the PCS union says that there will be many more to come.

A spokesperson for the Battle for Bootle said: “For the past five years, the Budget has been little more than an excuse for the Chancellor to play up to a baying mob of Tories as he attacks the livelihoods of working class people and the services they depend on.

“The recent announcements from HMRC will not only cost jobs within the department, but within local areas like Bootle. Civil Service jobs were put here specifically to help regenerate the area and taking them out will cause more shops to shut and see the town run into the ground.

“This demonstration is just the beginning of our opposition to these plans, but it is important that everybody with a stake in the local area does their best to attend and show the government that we won’t take their attacks lying down.”

Battle  For Bootle Budget Day Demonstration
Wednesday 16 March, 12.30pm
Assemble in South Park, Stanley Road
All welcome. Bring flags and banners!

RSVP on Facebook here and on 38 Degrees here.

Invite your MP to the PCS drop-in session

PCS met with Meg Hillier MP, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, to press the union’s concerns regarding the HMRC proposals.

PCS have organised a drop in briefing session for MPs to take place 1st March at 2.30pm in parliament and in addition to that, the PCS parliamentary group have managed to secure cross party support for an Early Day Motion (EDM) for our members.

More than 40 MPs’ offices have already been in contact with the union’s campaigns department and 25 have confirmed they will attend. Others have asked for more information.

There will also be a lunchtime “rally” at 1pm outside parliament on 1st March.

Use the PCS website to invite your MP to the briefing meeting.

Workers and residents vow to Battle for Bootle at public meeting

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. Continue reading Workers and residents vow to Battle for Bootle at public meeting

Defend jobs, defend Bootle – public meeting

The newly launched Battle For Bootle campaign is holding a public meeting in Bootle Town Hall at 6.30pm on Wednesday 16 December.

Following on from the recent announcement that HM Revenue & Customs is closing all of its offices in the Bootle area, as part of a wider move to new ‘regional centres’, there is an urgent need to discuss how we can fight back against this decision. Continue reading Defend jobs, defend Bootle – public meeting

Bootle protests against Spending Review cuts

Today (25 November) supporters of the Battle For Bootle campaign were among those who joined the anti-austerity protest outside the JobCentre in Bootle. The protest was staged to coincide with the Chancellor’s autumn statement, where he announced further cuts to public services.

Although the government made a massive u-turn on tax credit cuts, austerity is still expected to have a devestating impact on working class people on lower incomes. This includes the massive HMRC office closure programme. Continue reading Bootle protests against Spending Review cuts

Join the Bootle Spending Review protest

Thursday 25 November, 1pm
Stanley Road Jobcentre Plus, Bootle
Bring flags and banners

On Thursday 25 November, Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce more cuts that will hurt working class people and communities. His Spending Review announcements will be met with protests nationwide. Continue reading Join the Bootle Spending Review protest

PCS Group Executive statement on HMRC office closures

HMRC Announce a Decade of Disruption

HMRC has now announced further details of its plans to cut the number of staff working for the organisation to 51,000 and reduce the number of locations at which the remaining staff are employed to 17. The location plans which HMRC propose to implement over the next decade, alongside their wider change agenda, pose a significant threat to the operation of HMRC as a business, its service to the public and the working lives of its staff.  The potential for disruption to the core operation of HMRC and the dislocation to the staff that work for the organisation is so significant that the proposals being made by HMRC must be subject to rigorous scrutiny before any attempt is made to implement them. Continue reading PCS Group Executive statement on HMRC office closures

HMRC confirms widespread office closure programme

On Thursday 12 November, HM Revenue & Customs unveiled its ‘Building Our Future’ location strategy, with simultaneous announcements to all of its staff across the country. Almost all of its 170 offices will be closing to be replaced by 13 regional centres and 4 specialist sites over the next five years. Although some existing sites will remain open longer, by 2021 HMRC will be operating out of just 35 locations. Continue reading HMRC confirms widespread office closure programme