Coastguard hits out at MP over cuts

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A COASTGUARD chief has hit out at Whitby’s MP after he gave his backing to cuts proposed to the service which some fear will put lives at risk.

Mr Goodwill came under fire after saying changes had to be made and that his constituents should read the full consultation document and be aware of the full picture.

The new plans, which were first announced in December, will see the Humber Coastguard Station at Bridlington - which co-ordinates rescues off the Whitby Coast - only open during the day and there will be a two third reduction in coastguards there.

Paul Chapman, coastguard watch officer at Humber Coastguard and PCS Union Branch Secretary told the Whitby Gazette he was insulted after sending an email to Mr Goodwill asking him to add his signature to call for the subject of the cuts to be debated in the House of Commons.

But instead, Mr Goodwill sent him a copy of the consultation document on the plans which will see overnight responsibility for search and rescue operations passed to one of three centres located more than 300 miles away in Aberdeen, Dover or Southampton.

Mr Chapman said: “I can assure Mr Goodwill that I have read the consultation document at great length and have completed and returned the response form. We have since received a briefing by a member of MCA Senior Management and as a result I will be completing a second response form - things are even worse than they first appeared.

“Judging by comments attributed to Mr Goodwill I think he knows very little about the coastguard service. He doesn’t understand the implications of the proposed changes and probably hasn’t read the consultation document himself.

“Mr Goodwill, along with his Conservative colleague Greg Knight, MP for East Yorkshire, seem to be less interested in the safety and welfare of their constituents than they are with not rocking the party boat.

“They are the only people I have come across so far who are in favour of these changes.

“I would like to take this opportunity to invite Mr Goodwill and Mr Knight to visit us here at Humber coastguard in Bridlington. I would be happy to explain to him what we do and the technology we use. We could also have an in-depth discussion of the consultation document and the implications of the proposed changes. “

Mr Chapman added under the new plans, Humber coastguard will become a daytime station but its workload will be decided on a daily basis by the 24 hour station in Southampton.

“We may have no involvement at all in search and rescue activity on any particular day”, he said. “The principal concern of coast users and coastguard operators is that local knowledge, vital to ensuring timely search and rescue response, is discounted in the government’s proposal and the subsequent delays caused by loss of local knowledge will put people at risk.

“Mike Penning, parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport, who announced the modernisation plan, which involves centralisation of coastguard co-ordination centres, campaigned against a similar reorganisation of the Fire and Rescue Service planned by the Labour Government. He argued that the resultant lack of local knowledge would endanger lives. He now claims that the local knowledge of coastguard search co-ordinators is unimportant.

“The fire and rescue centralisation plan has been deemed to be unworkable and has been scrapped after eight years and at a cost of £423,000,000 of taxpayers’ money.

“No-one knows if the proposed modernisation can be made to work - no testing has been carried out.

“The cost savings from the closure and centralisation of coastguard stations will save £125 million over 25 years – just £5m per year. I hope that in future Mr Goodwill will check his facts before he so glibly dismisses the concerns of his constituents. They are right to be concerned.”