Secret plan to axe Lancaster staff in Boaty McBoatface research council

Artist's impression issued by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of a new state-of-the-art polar research ship that is to be named RRS Sir David Attenborough

Artist's impression issued by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) of a new state-of-the-art polar research ship that is to be named RRS Sir David Attenborough

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Up to 101 civil service jobs could be axed in Lancaster as part of cuts to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) budget.

A leaked document, seen by Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Cat Smith, has revealed that 77 per cent of staff in line for potential redundancy are based in the regions, with more than 10,000 staff across the country in the potential redundancy pool.

This includes 101 at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) facilities at Lancaster University.

The NERC recently made national headlines over its public poll to name a new £200m polar research vessel.

Voters chose Boaty McBoatface, however government mininsters vetoed it, instead naming it the Sir David Attenborough.

A remotely operated sub-sea vehicle will be christened Boaty McBoatface instead.

The research council now faces significant cuts.

Ms Smith said: “I’m shocked to learn about this threat to local jobs. But what really irks, is the government’s attempts to hide this devastating news. “Ministers have tried to keep the details of this plan secret, despite questioning from MPs. We need full transparency now, and it is time for a fundamental re-think on their agenda of centralisation and cuts.”

A BIS spokeswoman said the department did not comment on leaked documents.

She added: “But to be clear, there have been no changes to the plans already announced and discussed extensively with Parliament.”

Ms Smith said the department has refused to answer questions on the leaked document but answers to parliamentary questions reveal a breakdown of staffing by location, as well as total staff numbers. She added: “Apart from the obvious job losses this is a threat to important research into our environment which really couldn’t happen at a worse time.”

Cat Smith said the department has refused to answer questions on the leaked document but answers to parliamentary questions have revealed a breakdown of staffing by location in each of the affected organisations, as well as total staff numbers.

The total number of staff in the organisations being targeted for job losses is 14,183 and 10,873 of those work in the regions rather than the department’s Whitehall head office.

Around 40 per cent of these workers may be cut, according to the leaked document, but with many agencies facing merger or closure, and further regional offices likely to be closed, all are facing potential redundancy, and many towns across the UK face losing all of the local jobs provided.

The jobs in Lancaster are in the Natural Environment Research Council, all of which the recent BIS leak revealed were being considered for cuts of around 40 per cent of total staff.

Ms Smith added: “The fact the news had to come out in this way is insulting to the staff whose jobs are under threat. This news is bad news for us locally in Lancaster, but also for the North West as a region given almost a thousand jobs are at risk from Government cuts. The scale of this will not be easy.”

A BIS spokesperson added: “We have a responsibility to the taxpayer to ensure as much of the department’s funding as possible is focused on front line services.

“We have deliberately set ourselves challenging savings targets consistent with the Spending Review and we will continue to explore options in detail before making decisions.”