Emergency cuts: locals voice fury

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COASTGUARDS and residents have voiced their anger over plans to cut the emergency service across the Scarborough area.

The campaign to save frontline Coastguard services has attracted a groundswell of support. Hundreds of residents have signed petition forms - including around 130 people on a sheet in the Evening News reception - to safeguard the future of Humber Coastguard Station.

The petition will be presented to the Government in an attempt to reverse the proposals.

More than 100 people attended a public consultation at Bridlington Spa earlier this week, where current and former coastguards, rescue workers and members of the public quizzed representatives from the Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) over the plans.

The Bridlington-based facility co-ordinates rescues along Scarborough’s coastline, but would no longer provide a 24-hour service under government proposals. The changes would also see the station only operate between 9am and 7pm, with two 24 hour centres in Aberdeen and Portsmouth or Southampton and six sub-centres in areas such as Shetland and Dover covering missions around Scarborough.

Paul Chapman, a Humber Coastguard watch officer and union representative for the Public and Communication Services Union, said: “It was clear from the consultation that there was absolutely no support for the proposals, but I don’t believe that any concerns the staff or public raise are being taken into account.

“They need to start again. The main worry for everyone is safety. The MCA representatives had no statistics available to show that the two centres would be able to deal with all of the calls they might receive and revealed there will be a greater dependence on technology, which is obviously prone to failure.

“They are pressing ahead without the statistics to show that the switch from 18 centres to two will be feasible, or whether one operations room could cover the whole of the UK.”

Currently, all 18 stations need to be fully staffed at all times to deal with emergency calls, as all stations are not linked nationally.

However, the MCA says that under the new plans, workloads could be distributed more evenly from busier areas.

A spokesman for the MCA said: “High ranking members of unions were approached with the principles of the plans, and throughout the consultation process we will listen to any concerns or suggestions.

“Local knowledge is important but will still be maintained through RNLI and other rescue crews, but the use of modern technology is just as important.”

Public consultation on the plans will run until March 24.

There is also an online petition at www.gopetition.com/petition/42196.html