Yet another U turn? Ministers to back down on Coastguard Reform

Bill Esterson and Paul Kirby

According to a report in The Times, controversial plans to close more than half the coastguard stations around Britain and cut the opening hours of those that remain are to be abandoned because of concerns that the cuts would put lives at risk.

Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, has apparently decided to redesign the planned overhaul after an outcry from coastal communities. They said that the loss of local knowledge would endanger those at sea.

Sefton Central MP Bill Esterson who has been campaigning against these reforms said: “If the report is true, it is another embarrassing U-turn from the Government, which has already reviewed NHS reforms and abandoned plans to sell off some of Britain's publicly owned woodland.

With the woodland plan, ministers look to have concluded that with the coastguard cuts they were risking unpopularity by pushing through an idea that would not significantly cut costs. Only £20 million would have been saved by the end of the current Parliament and £210 million over the next 25 years.

The losses at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) would have cut the number of rescue stations along the 10,500 miles of British coastline from nineteen to nine, with nearly half the service's full-time staff losing their jobs”.

I hope that Ministers have now agreed a comprehensive rethink of the plans, which will allow several more centres to be kept open. But we need to find out what they have decided.

Bill added: “I am asking the minister to make a statement to MPs about this uncertainty and about the worry it has caused people in coastal communities including in Crosby. This whole thing has been a farce and coastguards and the people they serve need clarity.”

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