HM Revenue and Customs has officially opened its new £11m regional centre at India Buildings in Liverpool and says it will be home to 5,000 staff – 1,500 more than originally planned. Tony McDonough reports
Around 5,000 HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff will now be based at India Buildings in Liverpool city centre – 1,500 more than was originally planned.
Staff started to relocate to the Grade II-listed building in Water Street in August 2021 following a £11m refurbishment. HMRC is consolidating its 63,000-strong workforce into just 13 regional supercentres, replacing the current network of 180 offices.
The North West is the only region to have two hubs – one in Liverpool and one in Manchester. The strategy will save the Government £80m a year.
This week, the Liverpool centre was officially opened by Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC director general for customer services. Lady Massie, the wife of the late Liverpudlian disability rights campaigner, Sir Bert Massie, who has a meeting room named after him in India Buildings, also attended the ceremony.
Although 5,000 HMRC staff will be based at the centre they won’t occupy the 270,000 sq ft space all at the same time. Similar to many companies and organisations, HMRC has adopted more flexible and hybrid working practices which sees some people working from home.
It decided to move into India Buildings, signing a 25-year lease on the space at a reported £18.50 per sq ft. It was this decision that underpinned a move by Legal & General (L&G) to acquire the site for £125m from Shelborn Asset Management, a record for the sale of a single office building in Liverpool.
However, the refurbishment wasn’t without its setbacks. Originally meant to take three years, the project was delayed by a year when contractor Styles and Wood saw its contract terminated in September 2019. Caddick Construction was then appointed but they too were replaced by Overbury, part of Morgan Sindall, in December 2019.
Myrtle Lloyd said: “It is the only regional centre within a heritage building and is the result of a four-year programme of restoration and refurbishment which has resulted in a stunning workplace that honours the past but is fit for the future.
“India Buildings is a welcoming, light-filled space which enables collaborative working for all of our employees in the heart of wonderfully vibrant Liverpool city centre.”
India Buildings was built between 1924 and 1932 as a speculative venture by shipping firm Blue Funnel Line, owned by Alfred Holt. Architects Arnold Thornely and Herbert J Rowse won a competition to design the site. It cost £1.25m – equivalent to around £85m today.
It replaced an earlier ‘India Building’ on the site which was built in the 1830s for George Holt, Alfred’s father. In 1941, during World War II, India Buildings was bomb damaged but under Rowse’s supervision it was restored to its original condition.
It is not the first time that Government departments have occupied the building. The Passport Office and Income Tax Surveyors and collectors from the Inland Revenue have all worked in the building.
However, the overhaul of the building does mean that its once bustling retail arcade, that was filled with specialist outlets such as antique shops and barbers, will no longer be open to the general public. HMRC is considering holding heritage open days when people would be allowed access.
In early May it was revealed that leading steakhouse brand Hawksmoor would open a new restaurant in a corner of the building previously occupied by the Post Office. The venue, on the corner of Brunswick Street and Fenwick Street is due to open later this year.