South West police forces merge forensics services

Police forces in the South West are set for job losses as forensic services are to merge.

Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Dorset, and Wiltshire police will collaborate on laboratory work, such as fingerprinting.

Deputy Chief Constable of Dorset Police James Vaughan said the savings of £1.9m will "inevitably involve a reduction in overall headcount".

Debi Potter, Unison regional convenor, called it a "worrying time" for staff.

The Dorset Police-led programme was announced at a meeting in Portishead earlier.

Fingerprinting hubs will be reduced from five to two, based in Exeter and Portishead.

The current total cost of forensic services across the forces is £10.8m, with about 400 staff employed.

'No formal consultation'

Mr Vaughan estimates that 25 to 30 posts will be under review during the first year.

He said the aim would be to minimise any compulsory redundancies.

Analysts forecast savings of £1.9m during the first year, but believe the figure could reach £6.6m by 2018-2019.

Dorset Police's Chief Constable Debbie Simpson said: "In the coming months we will engage with all forensic staff across the five force areas to ensure that the best possible service is provided in the South West, while also identifying the required savings."

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said there would be an "improved service delivery at a reduced cost".

Ms Potter said: "This is a very worrying time for staff in forces where there will be no hub.

"We have been told there will be an opportunity for consultation in the near future, when the full details of the proposal will be explored.

"To date, there has been no formal consultation with the recognised trade unions in relation to this matter."

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