Reprieve for Alnwick Defra staff

PCS members outside the Defra office in Alnwick in October
PCS members outside the Defra office in Alnwick in October

Jobs at Alnwick’s Defra site have been saved from redundancies for at least the next 20 months.

Staff at the Willowburn Trading Estate business have been given a stay of execution until June 2015.

But ultimately work from the Lion House site will be transferred to Newcastle with staff being given the option to move there if wanted.

A new private company, part-owned by the government and set up to run civil service back office functions, has announced more than 500 redundancies today and there were concerns that up to 40 positions at the town’s Lion House would be axed.

However, Shared Services Connected Ltd ,which was established in November to take over the running of services that handle personal data of tens of thousands of civil servants, in the Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency, announced that no redundancies would be made in Alnwick.

Sites at Cardiff, Leeds and Sheffield are to close with all staff affected to be axed as well as staff at other sites across the country including 19 positions in Newcastle.

A spokesman for the Public and Commercial Services Union, which was opposing the cuts, said: “We continue to oppose the wider cuts and plans to offshore some of this work but we’re obviously pleased Alnwick will stay open for now.

“It’s unacceptable to dangle the axe over people’s heads in this way so we will be pressing the company to commit to jobs in the area long-term.”

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith said: “We are pleased ther 20-month guarantee will be adhered to ultimately I am very disappointed that Steria is moving work from Alnwick which would have ensured the office’s future.

“I have been pressing the company all along to look for new work for the Alnwick office and they are continuing to pursue this possibility with another contract which, if they are successful, will create more jobs at Alnwick in the future.”

In October last year a picket line was held outside Lion House in opposition to the potential job losses.