The possibility of the coastguard service based in Great Yarmouth relocating elsewhere in the country has been on the cards for some time. The last Labour Government, immediately before the last General Election, quietly shelved a review recommending closure. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency wants to move operations from the town to an alternative centre on the Humber.
Although proposals mean the loss of a coastguard presence in the town, it is part of a modernisation package replacing an out-dated forty-year-old system. The benefits include better pay and conditions for staff and the recruitment of an additional twenty frontline staff to work with volunteer coastguards. No one wants to see the loss of a service from our town, that has such a rich maritime history, but the priority must be safety.
This week I have lobbied the Maritime Minister and attended a meeting with the Secretary of State for Transport, along with other MPs from coastal towns. As a result, minsters confirmed that they would not make a final decision until an independent panel reports back from the current consultation exercise. They agree that a strong case to retain an operation centre in Great Yarmouth can alter the final decision. There is everything to play for, so I urge constituents to study the consultation and submit their views.