Updated: MPs say coastguard centre closures at Great Yarmouth and Walton-on-the-Naze have left staff ‘disillusioned and confused’
CAMPAIGNERS have urged the Government to heed advice from an influential committee of MPs and stop any further coastguard station closures.
On Monday, the Transport Select Committee criticised Whitehall’s reform of the coastguard service, which includes plans to close centres at Great Yarmouth and Walton-on-the-Naze.
It said the reforms had left staff “disillusioned and confused” and “drained talent from the service”.
The Government’s proposals include shutting stations at the Clyde, Portland, Liverpool, Yarmouth, Brixham, Walton and Swansea. Forth coastguard station in Scotland has already closed.
The Government wants there to be one maritime operations centre in the Solent area, Hampshire.
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It would have back up from the Dover station in Kent and eight coastguard stations around the country, including Humber which would cover the area looked after by Yarmouth, which is set to close on May 1 next year.
Dover would cover the area currently looked after by Walton.
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The report by the Transport Select Committee concluded: “In our view the loss of experienced coastguards is one of the most significant risks to the successful implementation of the Government’s reform programme. Years of uncertainty about the shape of the service, station closures and low morale have acted to drain talent from the service.
“We were concerned by the comments by Sir Alan Massey about the small number of coastguard stations in other countries reflect a view in Government that there should be more coastguard centre closures in the foreseeable future. We call on the Government to rule this out and confirm that the new arrangements for the service are intended to last for a generation.”
Dennis O’Connor, co-ordinator of the National Coastguard SOS Campaign, said: “We echo the recommendations of the committee and call upon the prime minister to stop the closure plan with immediate effect. Little has been done to adequately address the obvious damage to operational capability that would occur with the drain of experienced officers. They are leaving the service and with them years of experience and local knowledge is also disappearing.
Transport minister Stephen Hammond said: “Safety remains our top priority. Our reforms to modernise the coastguard will deliver a more resilient, and effective rescue system, with faster response times, benefiting all parts of the UK. The issues raised in the report have been addressed throughout the two consultations and in our evidence to the select committee. We have been frank and open in our responses on these and will continue to be so.”