PORTSMOUTH’S council boss has told of his disappointment at the move not to base the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 frigates in the city.
The hi-tech warships are designed for anti-submarine warfare and their prime responsibility will be to look after the navy's Portsmouth-based aircraft carriers and accompanying support groups.
However, defence secretary Gavin Williamson today announced all eight of the vessels would be based in Plymouth, despite a campaign spearheaded by the former Tory leadership at the city council.
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, said the news was a blow for the city.
He said: ‘There is a significant logic in basing these frigates with the carriers they are meant to protect here in Portsmouth and I'm really disappointed with the MoD's decision.
‘I've already written to the secretary of state on this decision and I hope that all councillors will support the call at our council meeting next week for these ships to be based here in Portsmouth.
‘The navy is set to build new Type 31 general purpose frigates and so far there has been no commitment to build or base any of these in Portsmouth, nor has there been any commitment to where maintenance work will be done on any frigates and this has a significant impact on jobs in the dockyard.
‘We will be working with local MPs, councils and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership to get ministers to reconsider this decision. When the government removed ship building from Portsmouth it was promised that we would get more maintenance work, that is a promise government should keep but it has not happened yet.’
Labour leader Councillor Stephen Morgan – who is also the MP for Portsmouth South – backed the move by the Ministry of Defence.
He said: ‘This is a strategic decision: it isn’t about party politics, it’s about what’s best for our Royal Navy.
‘As a champion for our forces and our city, I’ll always push for more ships in our port; but when it’s the right thing for national security it’s clear we must listen to the experts.’
Speaking to The News, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said he would be putting a motion to council next Tuesday urging agreement that the ships should be based in Portsmouth.
'I think it's very difficult to turn this round now but I think we should try at least,' Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.