CITY leaders have warned the region will not reap the benefits of a multi-million pound deal kickstarting a major shipbuilding programme.
A £859m deal has been struck between the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems to buy and test equipment needed to construct the first three Type 26 warships in Scotland.
It comes after Chancellor George Osborne announced the frigates will be based in Portsmouth and Plymouth, where they will be maintained.
The government says Portsmouth will benefit as it will safeguard the jobs of 200 workers at the naval base who are doing design work on the vessels.
But defence equipment minister Philip Dunne declared the jobs were safe last summer – and equipment for the ships is going to come from other areas of the UK.
Campaigners say they will be pushing hard for all of the frigates to be based in Portsmouth.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth South, said the announcement was disappointing ‘spin’ by the MoD.
‘There could have been equipment in the shiphall which could have been used to build these frigates instead of being thrown away,’ he said.
‘Once again, the MoD has managed to put a spin on something when really it has provided no new money, and is instead potentially wasting a lot of money on equipment that was previously around.’
He added: ‘It will be the same people in the same office doing the same design work they have done for the last two to three years, possibly longer.
‘It’s essential all of the frigates are based in Portsmouth. It means they can be maintained all in one place and ensures naval families can plan their lives.’
Cllr John Ferrett, Prospect union official and Labour parliamentary candidate for Portsmouth North, said: ‘This isn’t a new announcement.
‘A decision had been taken to build the Type 26 ships and we always knew they were going to need equipment to make them operational.
‘But what this shows is the Type 26s will not be built in Portsmouth, and we won’t benefit from the construction of the ship. We still believe there was a good business case for building the Type 26s here in Portsmouth.
‘The government has announced it wants to build one Type 26 every two years, and we believe that makes an even stronger case for building them in Portsmouth. In terms of the build – Portsmouth was sold out.’
Yet supporters say it is another boost for Portsmouth after prime minister David Cameron revealed Magma Structures and BAE Systems are moving into the vacant shiphall.
Cllr Donna Jones, Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘This is yet another good news story for Portsmouth. It shows work will now start on these very important strategic ships that will protect Britain’s largest ever aircraft carriers – the Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales.
‘This is significant for Portsmouth as we are home to the majority of the service fleet and these Type 26s will replace the current Type 23s, the majority of which are Portsmouth-based ships.’
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt criticised Cllr Ferrett for ‘talking down the city.’
‘This criticism is coming from people and one in particular who just wishes to talk down the city,’ she said.
‘People are really upbeat about the city and the number of jobs whether they be maritime or not are on the up.’
Defence secretary Michael Fallon said: ‘This announcement is a clear vote of confidence in British industry and forms part of our commitment to invest over £160bn in equipment and equipment support over the next 10 years.’