AROUND 280 United Utilities (UU) members of staff will not face compulsory redundancies in a job shake-up.

But they do face an 80-mile daily commute to Stoke-on-Trent or redeployment to keep their jobs.

UU, which has its Lingley Mere offices in Great Sankey, and Severn Trent will combine their non-household water and wastewater retail businesses, principally comprising billing and customer service activities, into one organisation.

The move has been introduced to target the non-household retail sector ahead of the market opening up for competition in England next year.

A spokesman confirmed around 280 people are currently connected to the non-household side of the business in Warrington but fears over job losses have been calmed.

UU business director Sue Amies-King, who will be chief executive of the new joint-venture, said: "We're hoping our employees who can travel will move from our Warrington site.

"For those who don't feel that they can make the journey, they'll be offered redeployment and for those who don't want either of those options, they'll be eligible for voluntary severance."

Bosses from the firms believe the announcement will pave the way to providing an 'efficient and cost-effective operation' focused on improved customer service and growth.

Based on the accounts of UU and Severn Trent, and before allowing for any 'financing or synergy effects', the partnership would have had sales of £940.2 million, gross assets of £200 million and profit before tax of £9.7 million for the year ending last March.

Severn Trent will pay £3.5 million on completion of the transaction in order to create a 50-50 project and will share the cost of systems development necessary for the provision of non-household retail services.

After completion, both firms will account for the venture through a share of profits, using equity accounting, at the central location in Stoke-on-Trent.

The agreement is subject to clearance from the Competition and Markets Authority, which UU and Severn Trent expect to obtain in the spring.

UU CEO Steve Mogford is confident of future plans and said they would help improve the 'competitive offering for customers, increase efficiency and enhance value for shareholders'.

He added: "We have been an early mover in building a strong non-household retail capability and have already established a sizeable presence in Scotland.

"This early progress, supported by our new customer relationship management system, means that we are well positioned for full market opening in England."

It is believed the new unit will employ around 200 staff.