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HMRC to be quizzed on axing contract that could hit Concentrix jobs in Belfast

By John Mulgrew

Published 12/10/2016

Letter: SDLP’s Colum Eastwood
Letter: SDLP’s Colum Eastwood

The taxman is being called in front of the Treasury Select Committee to address concerns over why HM Revenue and Customs ended a £75m contract with a Belfast-based call centre giant.

Concentrix, which employs more than 1,800 staff in the city, was given the HMRC contract to reduce fraud and error in the tax credits system. But after a barrage of complaints over its handling of the job, the deal will not be extended when it comes up for renewal in 2017.

Now, a letter from the Treasury Select Committee chairman, Andrew Tyrie MP, backed by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, has said it will call on HMRC to "give oral evidence" on the issue.

A former employee of the company here told the Belfast Telegraph the firm was not at fault for the loss of the multimillion-pound contract and insisted that HM Revenue and Customs' "poor systems" were to blame.

There are serious concerns that hundreds of jobs could be cut in Belfast as direct result of the loss of the contract.

Around 500 staff in the city had been working on the project.

Mr Tyrie said: "A huge amount of distress is being caused to many individuals across the country who are waiting for HMRC's review of Concentrix's decisions to be completed. This should be done without delay, so I have asked HMRC to update the committee each week on its work to reduce the backlog.

"We will be asking HMRC to give oral evidence, and probably also Concentrix, shortly."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has written to Mr Tyrie to "seek clarity on a range of issues" surrounding the deal.

He said that Stormont's Communities Committee was "particularly concerned that people in Northern Ireland had been forced into hardship by being wrongly deprived of tax credits as a result of decisions taken by Concentrix".

Mr Eastwood added that "given the evident disagreement between Concentrix and HMRC on the efficacy of the contract arrangements", the committee needed independent assurance that it was fit for purpose.

The SDLP leader also stressed that employees "found out about the decision not to renew the contract through social and broadcast media".

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