450 embassy job cuts planned

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The Foreign Office is planning to axe around 450 jobs from embassies and consulates around the world, including posts helping UK citizens and supporting diplomats, union leaders said today.

Internal briefings to staff said the cuts were part of measures to save up to £30 million a year because of reductions in Government spending, said the Public and Commercial Services union.

Officials said the move was "short sighted" particularly at a time when staff have played a key role in providing assistance to UK citizens in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

The union urged the Foreign Office to rethink its plans, saying that diplomatic staff should be allowed to "do what they were employed to do" - work overseas on behalf of the UK.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: "The Government talks about increasing the UK's influence abroad, but these cuts will have the opposite effect.

"The events of the last few weeks have shown the value of the work carried out by our members helping UK citizens abroad. Cuts on this scale would mean that support will not be there in the future."

The union said that under the plans, many diplomatic staff would now never work abroad, spending their careers in offices in London instead.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said in a statement: "The FCO has to find £100 million savings over four years and needs to ensure it focuses on core frontline activity - diplomacy and foreign policy.

"We will be making these savings in a number of areas, including the workforce.

"We are therefore proposing abolishing or localising nearly 400 more junior UK-based jobs overseas, most of which are back-office roles.

"Savings from this (about £30 million a year) will help the FCO make its contribution to the Government's overall priority of reducing the deficit, while also allowing it to direct its resources to top priority diplomatic work.

"Those in jobs now are being allowed to serve out their tours. We are not looking at compulsory redundancies."