HM Revenue and Customs will close all 281 of its inquiry centres nationwide, including branches in the Black Country and Staffordshire, under new plans to save £13million a year.
HMRC wants to replace the centres with a telephone service and home visits. The move puts 1,300 jobs at risk across the country.
Branches which deal with face-to-face inquiries in Wolverhampton, Brierley Hill, Walsall, Stafford and Birmingham are among those facing the axe.
Thirteen in the North East of England will shut in June as part of a pilot scheme. A public consultation will then be held on the future of the remaining centres, with any closures taking place in 2014.
The consultation closes on May 21 and the results will considered end of July. Between April and September, meetings held with staff potentially at risk. Bosses today said they would try to redeploy workers wherever possible.
The local centres are at Tettenhall Road, Wolverhampton, Brierley Hill’s Waterfront, Greyfriars in Stafford; Midland Road, Walsall, and Union Street, Birmingham. The HMRC refused to say today how many staff are employed in each of those branches.
Bosses say the number of people using the enquiry centres across the UK had halved from five million in 2005-06 to 2.5 million in 2011-12.
Each visit costs the service £152 on average, according to HMRC, but it said four out of five queries could have been solved on the telephone or online.
Chief executive Lin Homer said: “HMRC is dedicated to providing help to customers who need it. This new service will enable us to tailor that help in a way that works better for customers and is more flexible and affordable than the service we currently provide.
“We will give a more specialised phone service for customers whose affairs can be resolved over the telephone, and face-to-face help to those who need it, visiting them at a place convenient to them, saving them both travel and time. HMRC will provide a more modern and accessible service that will target the right support to customers.”
The move has sparked anger from unions.
PCS regional secretary for the Midlands Andrew Lloyd said: “Closing offices in local communities means we will break the link between public services and the general public.”