STAFF in the Rothesay office of HM Revenue and Customs face losing their jobs under proposals to slash the network of tax offices across the UK.
The Rothesay office, in the town's King Street, is one of three in Argyll and Bute facing the axe as part of a government drive to shed 25,000 public sector jobs across the country.
An eight week consultation with staff over HMRC's future accommodation needs, following the merger of the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise, was launched last week - but the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents tax office workers, has warned that seven jobs will be lost if the Rothesay office closes.
A PCS spokesman told The Buteman: "In this latest phase of office closure announcements there are a total of 19 offices throughout Scotland facing closure inclucing Dunoon and Greenock.
"The nearest office to Rothesay will be Glasgow, so it is not feasible that staff currently emplyed in Rothesay would be able to travel, nor is it likely HMRC would replace staff there."
Reacting to this, a spokesman for HMRC said: "It is not about closure. It is a review and consultation about the future of our buildings following our recent merger, which has given us a 40 per cent excess in capacity.
"So we are looking at how best to deliver our services to our customers, many of whom now use the internet or the telephone to contact us.
"We are involved in an eight week process, due to be completed by August 16, and everyone will have an opportunity to have their say."
The axe is also hanging over the HMRC offices in Oban and Dunoon, and Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid has added his voice to those protesting against the closure plan.
"I will fight against these closure proposals during the coming consultation period," Mr Reid said.
"If all three tax offices in Argyll and Bute were to close, people in my constituency would need to travel a very long distance to be able to discuss their tax affairs face to face with a tax inspector. It is an outrage that HMRC are trying to close all these offices."
Mary Hay, the HMRC director responsible for the programme, said: "By consolidating work in fewer locations HMRC will be able to work more efficiently and so improve customer service as well as providing better value for money.
"The consultation with staff, trades' unions and other stakeholders is part of a review to determine which buildings the department will occupy in a number of 'cluster' and 'individual' locations within Scotland.
"Cluster locations are, broadly speaking, groups of HMRC office buildings within 25 kilometres of each other, which sit in smaller towns and cities around the UK."