Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson called for Conservative Transport Minister Mike Penning to be sacked after a Westminster Hall debate on co-ordination between the Coastguard and other emergency services.
Bill called the debate following concerns about the loss of local knowledge and expertise in the government’s plans to close Crosby Coastguard Station. Those concerns included the important role played by the police, fire service and voluntary search and rescue services including the RNLI.
In his answer to the debate, the minister, Mike Penning admitted that he had not discussed the impact on police, fire and voluntary search and rescue service in drawing up the plans to centralise the coastguard. Mr Penning admitted that he would have to look into the impact on co-ordination of the changes. The minister also did not answer concerns raised by MPs including Conservative MPs about the ability of other emergency services to provide back up for the coastguard given the scale and speed of the cuts.
Bill Esterson MP who has been campaigning against the reforms, opened the debate by highlighting that the combined cuts to the Coastguard, added to the cuts to Police, Ambulance and Fire and Rescue services will have a detrimental impact on the emergency services that are available to people.
The Sefton Central MP received cross-party support for securing the debate, and highlighting the issue of the overall impact that the cuts to the emergency services will have.
Bill said: “The re-organisation has been rushed and the cuts to all emergency services is going too far and too fast. There is a lack of frontline involvement in the consultation process on the future of the Coastguard. There are serious issues that need to be addressed as to how the emergency services will replace the partnerships that they have built up with the Coastguard. The closure of the Crosby Coastguard station would result in vital local knowledge being lost, which could prove crucial in an emergency situation.
"The reality is that the cuts to Police, Ambulance, Fire and Rescue, and the Coastguard will result in a reduced service being available. The Coastguard is truly a UK wide service, and the proposed cuts will have a huge knock-on effect.”
“During the debate, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Mike Penning MP conceded that he has failed to consider the wider picture when addressing the issue of emergency services. The Minister has also been disastrously unsuccessful in seeing the significant gap that will be left in local emergency services if his reforms go ahead. The Minister also accepted that he has failed to realise the full impact that his cuts will have on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and its partnership with the Coastguard service.
"The minister has failed to grasp the importance of local knowledge, of local experience, of working relationships, of co-ordination with police, fire, search and rescue and other services. Public safety should be prioritised over money. He has not considered the impact of government cuts which are too far and too fast. The minister should be sacked and the Prime Minister should appoint a minister who makes sure safety is the number one priority.”