Labour MP Bill Esterson backs alternative plans to save Crosby's

Bill Esterson at the Coastguard press conference

 

Campaigners have received the backing of Labour MP Bill Esterson after they threw what they hope will be a lifeline for Crosby's coastguard station.

The MP has been fighting Tory-Lib Dem plans to close the Crosby station after it was named by the government as one of eight in the UK listed for closure.

Bill secured a debate in Parliament, spoke in a further two debates on the subject and attended public meetings in his fight "to make the government see that they are risking people's lives".

But he has now thrown his backing behind the local proposal to turn the Crosby coastguard station into a national lifesaving centre which campaigners say will save the government millions.

After seeing the plans, Bill said campaigners and staff, together with the PCS union, had drawn up a "cost-effective and viable alternative which the government must consider".

Bill said: "I am very impressed by the plans which have been drawn up by people here in Crosby.

"A local architect has given his expertise for free to draw up the plans based on the specifications provided to him by the coastguard staff and the local experts based on the government's own recommendations.

"The plans appear to be sound and deserve full inspection by the government. The government themselves have stated that a full life-saving centre of this type is required. I am informed that if they were to build a centre somewhere else from scratch, it would cost £11.5m. However, these plans for an extension here on the Crosby station would cost less than £1m.

"That is a huge saving which the government cannot ignore."

Bill said the work of the local station, which covers the whole of the North West's coastline is absolutely crucial to the safety of the people not just of Crosby and Formby, but the whole of the region.

Bill said: ""From day one, the Labour Party and myself have highlighted the inherent dangers of the government's seriously flawed plans to close Crosby's coastguard station. We have shouted from the rooftops that the closure will mean people will end up losing their lives in the waters around this region.

"With the closure of our coastguard station, we are losing the expertise of the dedicated staff who man the station and keep our waters safe.

"Throughout all of the debates, both in Westminster and out in the communities everyone was saying the same thing, 'These plans are dangerous.' The only ones who can't see that - or refuse to see it - are government ministers.

"They are mistaken in thinking that the fantastic service which our coastguards provide locally can be provided remotely. It cannot. While new technology is important and should be used it should not be at the expense of local knowledge and expertise. The Tories and Lib Dems are closing Crosby because they are in a rush. This is yet another cut that's too far and too fast this time at the expense of public safety.

"This government is intent on destroying our lifesaving emergency services. They have slashed funding to the police, fire and these plans make the waters around our region very dangerous indeed."

But Bill said he was still hopeful that the Tories and Lib Dems could be forced into a u-turn on the issue.

Bill said: "Tens of thousands of people have now signed the petition opposing the closure of the coastguard station in Crosby. Campaigners were last week outside the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool gathering more names for the campaign.

"What we are all asking for is for the government to look at this again.

"The staff and campaigners have drawn up a very good alternative which makes very good sense. They have pointed out that such a centre could be put in the existing Crosby coastguard station with a small extension of the building for a fraction of the cost of building a brand new centre in Southampton. It sounds like common sense to keep Crosby as it must be cheaper to use the Crosby building which the Coastguard agency owns rather than start from scratch.

"And especially when the Crosby building is also used by the Coastguard surveyors and has a search and rescue centre attached.

"The government says it wants to make the coastguard more efficient. Well the staff and union at Crosby have devised a plan which does just what the government says it wants. The government would be foolish not to give the Crosby plan serious consideration."