CONCERNS have been raised that taxpayers' money is being wasted as the civil service prepares to close a major operation in North Yorkshire.

More than 350 jobs are being moved from Northallerton as the Rural Payments Agency leaves its office block at Alverton Court, which is leased from a private landlord.

The offices are due to close on February 28, but workers are moving out by February 7 so work can be done to hand the building back.

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Nearly 250 members of staff who are staying with RPA are moving to offices in York, but about 100 have taken a voluntary exit scheme and are leaving.

However many of them have been told they will have to go to Newcastle to serve out the remainder of their employment, although it has been claimed there is no work there for many there to do.

One member of staff, who asked not to be named, said: “It seems ludicrous and a waste of time and money. They will have to pay travelling expenses and travelling time will also have to be included.

“For some part-time people they could be in Newcastle for less than a couple of hours, and as the work is largely being transferred to York there’s nothing for most people to do.

“For many the closure of the office has been a real blow. It just seems a waste of taxpayers money, to drag it out like this.”

But a spokesman for RPA said: “We believe this is a good temporary solution for RPA people who will still be working out their notice period when our Northallerton office closes.

“Not only will they continue to undertake meaningful work, but we have also guaranteed travel time will be counted within working hours and they will be reimbursed for the extra expense.”

He added: “We believe this is a fair and effective outcome for the taxpayer, the RPA and the people affected.”

There is also concern among staff that large amounts of money are being spent on the actual handing back of the building.

But the spokesman said: “At the end of any commercial lease landlord and tenant determine the value of settlement, which is based on the wear and tear to the building against any improvements that have been made.

“These negotiations can typically take several months to conclude. We estimate that the decision to relocate from Alverton Court will save the taxpayer many millions over the next ten years.”