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

The offices earmarked for closure are in Cardiff, Edinburgh, Wolverhampton, Taunton and York. The main work of the regions includes managing teams of vets and meat inspectors and processing paper-based information and forms from the 1500 or so abattoirs and meat cutting premises in Great Britain.

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

In future, each of the 1500 approved meat premises in Great Britain will be allocated to one of 37 geographical cluster teams, each managed by a lead vet.