The Steria operation at Lion House, the Defra site in Alnwick, is to close next year, with the loss of more than 20 jobs, ending months of speculation and uncertainty.
Staff were sent home this afternoon after being informed of the decision. A worker told the Gazette that they were being given the option to relocate to Newcastle or take redundancy.
They are employed by Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), which is part of Steria, a private company part-owned by the government and set up to run civil service back-office functions. Steria provides services to Defra and other government departments. SSCL employs 23 staff at the site, while Defra has 24 workers who are not affected by this announcement.
Monica Owen, head of communications at SSCL, said: “We are very disappointed that we were unable to progress with the NHS SBS proposal which would have enabled us to retain the Alnwick office. We want to avoid making compulsory redundancies through a combination of voluntary redundancy and working hard to find redeployment opportunities for our Alnwick team at our Newcastle offices, as well as working with Defra and other government organisations to see if there are reappointment opportunities back into the civil service.”
Commenting on the news, MP Sir Alan Beith said: “This is bad news for the families involved, and it is a real waste of the expertise which has been built up over recent years in the Alnwick Steria office. I have been trying to prevent this closure in meetings with Ministers and Steria and today’s news is a bitter disappointment.
“Steria’s management have said they have been impressed by the workforce at Alnwick, and the closure results from the fact that they have not been able to secure the NHS payments work which they had planned for the office here. I am having discussions with the trade union, the PCSU.
“I have called on both Steria and the Cabinet Office Minister, Francis Maude, to make fresh efforts to locate work at Alnwick, instead of closing this efficient office and putting skilled people out of work.”
A Defra spokeswoman said: “The Defra staff will be staying there and the site will not be closing.”