January 20, 2015

Bill Esterson

Crosby Coastguard Station closed for the final time last week. 

This was despite warnings of the dangers from coastguard staff, unions, the shipping industry, local pleasure boat users and members of the public. 
Many of the staff at Crosby Coastguard had 20 or 30 years of experience and knew the area very well. 
They knew the coast, the sandbanks and currents. 
They knew the names of the headlands and the inlets. 
So when there was an emergency, the local coastguard officers knew exactly where to send search and rescue teams. 
They also knew the team members, both the full time members and the volunteers, so they knew who to call and who was best placed for each rescue. 
That local knowledge and experience has been lost as most of the coastguard staff at Crosby did not go to Holyhead or Southampton as promised by the government. 
The coast up to Scotland will now be covered by a combination of staff at Holyhead and at Southampton who don’t know the area and who don’t know the staff who carry out the search and rescue work. 
The coastguard station has been closed to save money. 
The Tory government with the full backing of the Lib Dems is taking a huge risk with public safety and I fear that lives will be lost as a result of this cut, which is by any definition a cut too far. 
I have raised this countless times with government ministers and will continue to do so. 
In the unlikely event that the government decides it has made a mistake, it is too late to do anything about it. 
The staff are gone for good. 
That experience is lost for ever as coastguard officers have gone to do other things with their lives. 
Local residents have asked about the prospects for turning the coastguard station into a café. 
At present the station is being used for training. 
But if the Maritime and Coastguard Agency decides to stop using the building altogether it would make a good visitor centre and café and if it cannot be a coastguard station anymore, then this would be a good use for the building and a way to salvage something from the wreckage of the mistake made by the government. 
An impressive 50,000 people signed a petition against the closure, which I presented in parliament. 
Those 50,000 people understood the huge risks being taken with lives by the Tories. 
I hope that people along the Sefton coast do not pay to pay the price for what I fear is nothing but a short-term gamble.