Coastguard loss disappointment

We have not been able to keep the Great Yarmouth Coastguard Station, with the sad loss of the equivalent of twenty-five jobs; this is disappointing news for the area.

I have argued and fought to keep these jobs in Great Yarmouth. However, the logic and the reasoning behind why the Maritime and Coastguard Agency wants the changes they have put forward does make sense. It is a more robust and modern system, needed to replace a current system that is forty years old. It needs to be updated, but the original plan had no cover along the Eastern coastline, which was unacceptable.

Along with colleagues representing other Eastern constituencies, I have met with the Minister and the Secretary of State to express our concerns. That, along with the wide public consultation (with over 1800 replies) has led to the revised proposals.

There will now be a centre at Humber. This may seem a long way away but that needs to be considered in context. The Humber centre is already twinned with Great Yarmouth so deals with incidents in our area now. As such, they already have a level of local knowledge. In the House of Commons, when the announcement was made, I asked about the need to retain local knowledge. Where possible existing Great Yarmouth staff will be offered the opportunity to relocate, transferring their local knowledge to the new centre and so add their experience to the local knowledge that already exists at the Humber.

These are proposals made by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency that we inherited from the last Labour Government who instead of making a decision put it off until after the General Election. The Coalition Government has altered them (hence a new consultation period) to keep more centres such as that proposed for Humber and to retain a 24-hour service.

Of course, the ideal situation would be to keep the Great Yarmouth centre open and keep the jobs locally. However, I do support proposals for a modern, safe and efficient Coastguard service. You can find out more details about the revised proposals and new consultation on the Department of Transport website.

20th July 2011