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Politics & press news – Embassy 19 – October 2009

Foreign Office braced for cutbacks

The Foreign Office plans to use more local staff at its posts and will be cutting back on expensive new embassy buildings in a bid to save funds.

The FCO announced that it plans to retrench more than 130 British diplomats serving as management officers in 50 UK missions around the globe and replace them with locally employed staff.

Public service unions have criticised the move, particularly in countries where there are high security risks and a threat of espionage and organised crime.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) said: “Management officers carry out a vital role in UK embassies overseeing sensitive areas of work such as security and finance.”

Because local staff are not protected by immunity laws, they are in a vulnerable position if relations between Britain and the host country deteriorate, as happened to staff at the British Embassy in Iran.

Cutbacks are also expected in the construction of new embassies. The recent unveiling of the new British Embassy in Warsaw could be the last of its kind, thanks to a new cost-cutting drive which will make future buildings more functional.

Already it is believed £5m has been slashed from the £27m budget for the new embassy in Jakarta.
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