AT least 130 highly-skilled jobs are to be lost in Yorkshire after the Government confirmed plans to privatise its forensic science laboratories.
Unions expressed their “deep disappointment” yesterday after the Home Office announced that all the functions of the current Forensic Science Service (FSS) lab at Wetherby in West Yorkshire are to be taken over by private forensics firm LGC.
Engineering and science union Prospect said 79 staff would be transferred to LGC, but at least 130 more would lose their jobs.
Prospect negotiator Steve Thomas said: “This announcement is deeply disappointing both for our members, who had fought hard to maintain the service in some public capacity, and in terms of the loss of skilled employment opportunities in Wetherby.
“Our members are to be commended for the passionate support they have provided to the police forces of the North East during the last year when a question mark hung over their own futures.”
The Government announced in its spending review last year that it planned to wind up the FSS in 2012 and use private firms to carry out specialist forensic analysis for police forces instead.
The Home Office said the FSS was losing £2m per month and that it would be more efficient to use private contractors.
However, the move was criticised as “hasty” in a report by MPs, while forensics regulator Andrew Rennison warned that many private laboratories did not meet the high standards of FSS centres such as the lab in Wetherby, which has helped to crack some of Yorkshire’s most complex criminal cases – including the abduction of schoolgirl Shannon Matthews.
The Government denies standards will be hit.
LGC will provide services to police forces in Yorkshire and the North East from a police facility in Wakefield and at other sites from April 2012.
Mr Thomas said: “We will be looking for assurances that members made redundant by this process, or whose circumstances mean they are unable to make the transition to the Wakefield lab, will not be penalised and retain the option to leave under full voluntary terms.
“We will be looking to enter into meaningful consultation with LGC to ensure that those who do transfer do not end up paying for the move through diminished terms and conditions or inferior pension arrangements.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Following a competitive process, arrangements have been made for the transfer of responsibility for providing forensic services in the North East to LGC. This will involve the transfer of some of the FSS staff currently servicing the region.
“Staff have been informed today and transfers will be staged between now and March 2012 to minimise disruption.
“The Government is ensuring the continued provision of high quality forensic services to local police forces and to the criminal justice system.”