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Ramsay: Tax office cuts threaten communities

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"Thank you for the chance to contribute to this important debate, on an issue, which, as Leanne Wood has pointed out, will affect the livelihoods of many people across Wales, including in my constituency, as well as in many of the constituencies represented in this Chamber.

This debate highlights a growing move to centralise in Wales, which sits uneasily on the shoulders of devolution. There is a significant gap here between the aims of the UK Government in this situation, and what we are trying to aspire to here.

I will focus on a few aspects. First, the clear economic implications of taking these jobs from what are, in many cases, less well-off areas, and focusing them on more prosperous regional centres, are difficult to understand beyond the straightforward financial savings, which, upfront, you could argue might be made. There may be savings in that way, but we must accept that, while streamlining is a fact of life in many cases, we do not have to focus on that. We should be looking at the bigger picture, and the damage to the economy that will be done in individual areas. Many of the existing offices are in convergence funding regions, which demonstrates the types of areas that we are talking about—if there was any doubt.

There is also an environmental aspect to this issue. Climate change is at the heart of the political agenda—where it should be. The Stern review has highlighted the importance of reducing carbon emissions to try to tackle the threat of global warming. As some people said, closing these offices will reduce carbon emissions by reducing energy costs in existing buildings. However, that is only one side of the story; as Leanne Wood has said, there is also the extra travel for employees, as well as their families in certain cases, which needs to be considered if relocation happens.

Some worrying figures have come out—from the PCS, I think—which should be highlighted. The commuting of Haverfordwest staff to Cardiff would result in an increase of about 110 tonnes of carbon each year. Staff commuting from Llanelli to Swansea—if the Llanelli offices close—would mean an increase of 20.1 tonnes of carbon each year. Staff commuting from the Valleys and Newport to Llanishen would result in a huge 466 tonnes of additional carbon each year. We can do all sorts of research to weigh up the savings in carbon emissions in each case, but, at the end of the day, a policy that will ultimately put extra traffic on our roads—and we all know how busy the M4 is at present between Newport and Cardiff—would be irresponsible and not one that we should pursue.

There will be social consequences, as many people with children work part time at the HMRC offices and may not be able to relocate. That should also be taken into account.

Where do we go from here? The Assembly Government should strongly make the case for the retention of these regional offices, albeit—and I think we all accept this—in a modified format of some order. In Newport, for instance, there are 13 local government offices at the moment. I would like to see more co-operation, and I would also like to see, where possible—which is the key thing—existing offices being streamlined, but the bulk of the work done in those offices kept in the locations where it is done at the moment, because that would be in the best interest of the employees, their families and the economy in those areas.

I am pleased to have been able to speak in this debate. As to the proposal in our amendment, I shall not propose the amendment, as has been alluded to. I think that it could be seen as too restrictive, although there was a good intent there. I intend to support the motion as it stands."

"Diolch am y cyfle i gyfrannu at y ddadl bwysig hon, ynghylch pwnc, a fydd, fel y nododd Leanne Wood, yn effeithio ar fywoliaeth nifer o bobl ledled Cymru, gan gynnwys yn fy etholaeth i, ac mewn nifer o'r etholaethau a gynrychiolir yn y Siambr hon.

Mae'r ddadl hon yn tynnu sylw at y duedd gynyddol o ganoli yng Nghymru, sy'n mynd yn hollol groes i'r syniad o ddatganoli. Ceir bwlch sylweddol yma rhwng amcanion Llywodraeth y DU yn y sefyllfa hon, a'r hyn a geisiwn ni ymgyrraedd ato yma.

Canolbwyntiaf ar ychydig o agweddau. Yn gyntaf, y goblygiadau economaidd amlwg o symud y swyddi hyn o ardaloedd sydd, mewn nifer o achosion, yn ardaloedd llai breintiedig, a'u canoli mewn canolfannau rhanbarthol mwy llewyrchus. Mae'n anodd deall y goblygiadau hyn y tu hwnt i arbedion ariannol syml, y gallech ddadlau y gellid eu gwneud, yn y lle cyntaf. Efallai y ceir arbedion yn hynny o beth, ond rhaid inni dderbyn, er bod aildrefnu yn un o ffeithiau bywyd mewn nifer o achosion, nid oes rhaid inni ganolbwyntio ar hynny. Dylem edrych ar y darlun ehangach, a'r niwed a wneir i'r economi mewn ardaloedd unigol. Mae nifer o'r swyddfeydd presennol mewn rhanbarthau cyllid cydgyfeirio, sy'n dangos y mathau o ardaloedd y soniwn amdanynt—os oedd unrhyw amheuaeth.

Ceir hefyd elfen amgylcheddol i'r pwnc hwn. Mae newid yn yr hinsawdd wrth galon yr agenda wleidyddol—sef ei briod le. Mae adolygiad Stern wedi tynnu sylw at bwysigrwydd lleihau gollyngiadau carbon er mwyn ceisio mynd i'r afael â'r bygythiad o gynhesu byd-eang. Fel y dywedodd rhai pobl, bydd cau'r swyddfeydd hyn yn lleihau gollyngiadau carbon drwy leihau costau ynni mewn adeiladau presennol. Serch hynny, un ochr i'r ddadl yw honno; fel y mae Leanne Wood wedi dweud, mae'n rhaid ystyried y teithio ychwanegol i weithwyr, yn ogystal â'u teuluoedd mewn rhai achosion, os bydd adleoli.

Cyhoeddwyd rhai ffigurau—gan y GCM yr wyf yn credu—sy'n destun pryder a dylid tynnu sylw atynt. Byddai staff Hwlffordd yn cymudo i Gaerdydd yn creu oddeutu 110 tunnell ychwanegol o garbon bob blwyddyn. Byddai staff Llanelli yn cymudo i Abertawe—pe bai swyddfeydd Llanelli yn cau—yn creu 20.1 tunnell ychwanegol o garbon bob blwyddyn. Byddai staff sy'n cymudo o'r Cymoedd a Chasnewydd i Lanisien yn arwain at swm enfawr o 466 tunnell o garbon ychwanegol bob blwyddyn. Gallwn wneud ymchwil o bob math i bwyso a mesur yr arbedion o ran gollyngiadau carbon ym mhob achos, ond ar ddiwedd y dydd, byddai polisi a fydd yn y pen draw yn rhoi traffig ychwanegol ar ein ffyrdd—a gwyddom oll pa mor brysur yw'r M4 rhwng Casnewydd a Chaerdydd ar hyn o bryd—yn anghyfrifol ac yn un na ddylem ei weithredu.

Bydd canlyniadau cymdeithasol, gan fod nifer o bobl â phlant yn gweithio'n rhan amser yn swyddfeydd Cyllid a Thollau Ei Mawrhydi, ac efallai na fydd yn bosibl iddynt adleoli. Dylid ystyried hynny hefyd.

Ble nesaf? Dylai Llywodraeth y Cynulliad ddadlau yn gryf o blaid cadw'r swyddfeydd rhanbarthol hyn, ond—a chredaf ein bod oll yn derbyn hyn—ar ffurf a addaswyd mewn rhyw ffordd. Er enghraifft, yng Nghasnewydd, ceir 13 o swyddfeydd llywodraeth leol ar hyn o bryd. Hoffwn weld mwy o gydweithrediad, a hoffwn hefyd weld, lle y bo hynny'n bosibl—sef y mater allweddol—swyddfeydd yn cael eu haildrefnu, ond y cedwir rhan sylweddol o'r gwaith a wneir yn y swyddfeydd hynny yn y lleoliadau lle gwneir y gwaith ar hyn o bryd, oherwydd byddai hynny er budd y gweithwyr, eu teuluoedd a'r economi yn yr ardaloedd hynny.

Yr wyf yn falch fy mod wedi cael siarad yn y drafodaeth hon. O ran y cynnig yn ein gwelliant, fel y cyfeiriwyd ato, ni chynigiaf y gwelliant. Credaf y gallai ymddangos yn rhy gyfyngedig, er bod ei fwriad yn dda. Bwriadaf gefnogi'r cynnig fel y mae ar hyn o bryd."

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