Labour MP Bill Esterson says under-staffing at our coastguard stations shows how Tory-Lib Dems are dicing with lives

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Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said new figures showing that under-staffing at coastguard stations was another example of the Tory-Lib Dem Government "dicing with people's lives".

Bill has repeatedly slammed the Tory-Lib Dem Government closure of Liverpool Coastguard Station in Crosby.

The station closure is part of the government's cost cutting measures which sees coastguard search and rescue operations conducted from hundreds of miles away.

The closure of the Crosby station has seen the operation moved to Holyhead, leading to a loss of local knowledge.

But a whistleblower this weekend revealed that the cuts have gone so far, "unqualified" people are being drafted in to cover watch duty because there is an insufficient number of qualified staff available.

The whistleblower's claims were backed up by official figures released by the Transport Minister in response to a parliamentary question which revealed that 5,323 shifts at the country's 17 Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres have been staffed at levels below those assessed to be safe.

Liverpool Coastguard Station was identified as operating with 25 per cent of shifts at unsafe levels.

Bill Esterson said the figures and the whistleblower's concerns reveal the reckless level of cuts being imposed by the Tories and Lib Dems.

Bill said: "These figures reveal the extent by which this Tory-Lib Dem Government really is dicing with people's lives.

"Not only have we lost the expert local knowledge by the closure of the coastguard station in Crosby, but now it turns that the remaining centres are being staffed at 'unsafe' levels.

"That proves that the government really is gambling with public safety.

"Experts are now warning that the Tory-Lib Dem Government's policy when it comes to our coastal emergency services will lead to loss of life.

"It is something that I have raised repeatedly in Parliament and which I will continue to raise as a matter of urgency."

Thousands of people signed a petition calling for the Crosby station to be saved. But the Tory-Lib Dem Government pushed through with its cuts.

Bill said: "All of the experts on this issue say the same thing, that local knowledge is crucial in saving people's lives. Closing these stations puts people at risk. Under-manning the stations are putting lives at risk.
 
"More than 51,000 people who signed the petition agree. These planned closures are a cut too far. They are another attack on our vital emergency services.
 
"Life-or-death emergency cover in British waters is being strangled by this Tory-Lib Dem Government's slash-and-burn approach to the most vital of public services.
 
"From the coastguards to search and rescue to the emergency tugs that put out the fires, every last shred of the safety net is being ripped apart.
 
"This isn't cutting the fat, it's smashing into the very bones of services. This dicing with death on the high seas must stop."