MHS to close five regional offices

The Meat Hygiene Service is to close its five regional offices in Great Britain as part of an efficiency transformation programme, and in response to changing technology.

The move is believed to follow criticism of rising costs of meat inspection for the industry and the government move towards full cost recovery.

The five offices affected are located in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Taunton, and York.

The main work of the regions is to manage teams of veterinarians and meat inspectors, to provide human resources and health and safety support, and to process paper-based information and forms from the 1,500 or so abattoirs and meat cutting premises in GB.

The MHS said the current paper-based systems will be replaced with modern computer systems and the offices closed as part of a transformation programme that will save the taxpayer £16 million by the financial year 2011/12.

The first closure will be the Cardiff office on 30 April, and the final one will be Edinburgh on 30 September.

The MHS said in the future, each of the 1,500 approved meat premises in Great Britain will be allocated to one of 37 geographical cluster teams, and locally managed by a lead veterinarian supported by a team consisting of an official veterinarian and senior meat hygiene inspectors.

A team of 12 field based business managers, across England, Scotland and Wales, will provide the link between the clusters and a new Delivery Planning Unit at MHS management in York.

Two business directors, reporting to the MHS Chief Executive, will oversee operations and have special responsibility for liaison with the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly Government, and local authorities.

Steve McGrath, chief executive of the MHS, said: "These closures are necessary to improve our efficiency and the effectiveness of our role in ensuring the meat industry meets its responsibility for producing safe meat from well cared for, healthy, animals."

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