Union warns coastguard cuts will put lives at risk

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PLANS to cut the number of 24-hour coastguard centres to three will risk lives, a union leader has warned MPs.

The government is in the middle of a consultation into proposed cuts to the coastguard service.

Under the plans, the coastguard station in Lee-on-the-Solent would shut.

Instead, a new state-of-the-art Maritime Operations Centre (MOC) would be built in either Portsmouth or Southampton.

It would be one of just three in the UK operating 24 hours a day and will handle calls from around the country.

There are currently 18 stations which operate around the clock.

Steve Quinn, president of the coastguard section of the Public and Commercial Services Union, attacked the cuts at a meeting of the House of Commons Transport Committee on Tuesday.

He said: ‘Cuts of that magnitude can only lead to putting people’s lives at risk.

‘Local knowledge is a vital tool the coastguard uses every day.

‘If you’ve got somebody in difficulty in the water, or somebody hanging by their fingertips off a cliff-top, minutes count.

‘That local knowledge will not migrate to these MOCs.

‘I’m sure the professionalism of the coastguard would resolve those issues but it will take time.’

In addition to the three 24-hour centres, there will be five stations which are only open during daylight hours.

The proposals have been put out for public consultation, which ends on May 5.

To view the plans in full visit mcga.gov.uk.