Wiltshire and Gloucestershire join three other police forces to combine forensic services

A PLAN to combine the forensic services of five police forces is set to involve around 30 job losses.

Savings of £6.6 million by 2019 are expected as a result of the collaboration between Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Avon and Somerset, Dorset and Devon and Cornwall that was agreed at a regional meeting of chief constables and crime commissioners last week.

Under the changes Wiltshire will lose its fingerprint and chemical labs. Each force currently has one of each but the total number will be cut to four – two for fingerprints in Exeter and Portishead and the other two in Gloucestershire and Exeter.

Currently the services cost £10.8 million. According to a statement released by Dorset Police half the projected savings will come from a reduction in staff.

“We are opening consultation with all the 127 affected staff over the next two to three months. It is not appropriate to comment further at this time until consultation with staff and trade unions is complete,” it said.

“A range of options will be offered to minimise the impact on staff. This will include; preferential treatment to fill other available jobs where appropriate, voluntary exit, retirement, redeployment and re-location packages.

It added that the remaining four labs had been chosen because they did not need further investment and met current accreditation levels.

The changes will be the first of several phases. Digital forensics and crime scene investigation come under the microscope next year.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Pat Geenty said: “This is an important and positive step for regional collaboration and one that I fully support. This agreement will ensure that Wiltshire, alongside the other four forces involved, can continue to provide the best possible forensic service provision.”

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson, added: “I am committed to collaborating with my regional colleagues to provide good value for the taxpayers whilst maintaining a good policing service to the people we serve. This agreement on regional forensic services will deliver real savings coupled with state-of-the-art resources.”

The decision to collaborate follows negotiations between the forces to reduce budgets and increase efficiency.

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