Bid to save lab is too little and too late

JOB losses at Wetherby’s Forensic Science Service are “shocking and unnecessary”, according to a union official.

The Forensic Science Service (FSS) is scheduled to close at the end of March with the loss of almost 200 jobs after the Home Office announced it was making a loss of £2m per month.

But Prospect Union negotiator Steve Thomas, who has led the campaign to save the Forensic Science Service, said the job losses were “shocking” and “unnecessary”.

And a Government debate to discuss the closure of Wetherby’s Forensic Science Service was “too little, too late” as 90 per cent of workers will be made redundant, Mr Thomas said.

More than 200 highly skilled workers are employed at an FSS laboratory in Wetherby, and more than 90 per cent are expected to be made redundant when its services are taken on by a private firm, LGC Forensics, based in Wakefield, at the end of next month.

During its time in Wetherby, scientists at the laboratory have uncovered crucial evidence in cases such as the abduction of Dewsbury schoolgirl Shannon Matthews and the murder of Lesley Molseed, whose body was found on moorland near Ripponden in 1975.

Mr Thomas said: “Before the debate on Monday we knew that 90 per cent of people from the Wetherby Forensic Science Service were going to be made redundant.

“It is shocking that with more than 200 highly-skilled workers, only 24 will be transferred to the Wakefield LGC at present.

“They are angry, and shocked at the closure and loss of jobs. It is both the fact that the Wetherby Forensic Service will be closed, which we have known for some time now and is an important local employer, but the loss of jobs is totally unnecessary.

“There are other issues to consider with the transition of the FSS to Wakefield and we hope job opportunities can be provided for those who had been made redundant.”

He added that employees at the FSS were predominantly female and many of them worked part time.

A Forensic Science Service employee, who asked not to be named, said the closure and subsequent job losses had been a shock to her.

“When we initially found out about the closure there was a sense of complete disbelief.

“We have built up a good relationship with the seven police forces in the North East over the years.

“I don’t want to criticise the LGC, they are a very highly-respected private company, but I think the work will be different and possibly more restricted.”

The employee added that the transfer could lead to a “loss of expertise”.

In a statement to the Wetherby News, Wetherby M, Alec Shelbrooke said: “I have been clear from the outset that I wanted to see the best possible outcome for the FSS staff in Wetherby.

“The service itself wasn’t economically viable in the public sector and attempts by the previous government to transform the service to a public-private partnership failed leaving ministers with no choice but to review the FSS.

“I have had conversations with home office ministers on numerous occasions to stress the need for as many jobs as possible to be protected in any transfer.

“While I was disappointed that the service will no longer be active in Wetherby, I was pleased that transfer options have been offered to staff.”