Solent Coastguard spared from cuts

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Solent Coastguard has been saved from government cuts.

Under the plans the UK's 18 coastguard stations are to be reduced to eight.

Solent Coastguard, based at Lee-on-the-Solent, will be one of only three operational around the clock, under plans outlined by Shipping Minister Mike Penning today. Dover and Aberdeen have also been saved.

Mr Penning said the Solent and Aberdeen centres would be 'maritime operations centres capable of managing maritime incidents wherever and whenever they occur and with improved information systems, together with a 24-hour centre at Dover looking over the busy Channel traffic separation scheme'.

Cutting the number of control centres is intended to modernise the service and save money.

Mr Penning said the Government wanted to 'provide high-quality and demanding jobs for our coastguards, with the job weight and pay reflecting the increased demands placed upon them in line with Civil Service pay guidelines'.

It also wanted to strengthen the leadership and support provided to volunteer coastguards in the Coastguard Rescue Service and to 'improve present levels of service to the public while reducing costs'.

Mr Penning said: 'The Coastguard has a long and distinguished history. But in common with all public services it cannot stand still.

'Our seas are becoming busier, with larger ships and increasing numbers of offshore renewable energy platforms making key areas of our seas more congested. There are also increasing numbers of people using our beaches, coastlines and seas for leisure activities.'

He went on: 'The current organisation of the Coastguard - which dates back some 40 years - is not well placed to respond to these challenges. The lack of national co-ordination between the centres can result in limited resilience and an uneven distribution of the workload, especially during busy periods.'