Cash will make up lifeboat group’s shortfall

LIFESAVERS Rescuers from GAFIRS will benefit from a grant
LIFESAVERS Rescuers from GAFIRS will benefit from a grant

‘Significant’ number of police misuse access to data

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COUNTY councillors have stepped in to plug a funding gap which left sea organisations short of cash.

Hampshire County Council has awarded Solent Sea Rescue Organisation (SSRO) a grant of £41,500 to ensure it can keep its eight lifeboat stations across the coast afloat.

The organisation includes Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue (Gafirs), which covers the waters from Portsmouth Harbour to Titchfield Haven and south toward the Victorian forts in the Solent.

It comes after councillors at Southampton City Council decided to stop awarding the SSRO a grant of £10,576.

Portsmouth City Council had already stopped funding the SSRO, which provides contingency funds and insurance for Gafirs along with seven other stations.

Peter Edgar is the chairman of SSRO and a councillor at the county council.

He said: ‘Every penny that is given by local authorities to Solent Sea Rescue goes to the units.

‘It goes to make sure they’re fit for purpose, and they can be in very traumatic and dangerous circumstances on occasions.

‘We had a tragic incident a few years ago and I had to attend the inquest.

‘The coroner actually complimented the local authorities in setting up the Solent Sea Rescue Organisation.

‘When a coroner says that, just to ignore it and turn your back on it is quite outrageous.’

Cllr Edgar added he spoke to county council leader Cllr Ken Thornber to explain the need for the cash.

The SSRO needs to maintain a £60,000 contingency fund in case of emergency.

It also pays £55,000 to cover corporate insurance for each of its stations.

Mike Allen, vice-chairman at Gafirs, said he was thankful to the county council for the cash.

He said: ‘If you start to remove the financial infrastructure of an organisation then there’s a real threat there can be a real impact on the whole structure.

‘If there’s no central support each organisation might have to go it alone.’

Cllr Lee Hunt from Portsmouth City Council said it provides bases for the RNLI but it had cut funding to the SSRO as it covers areas further away.

Cllr John Noon, cabinet member for efficiency and improvement at Southampton council, said the council had considered all grant applications anew this year.