Public and Commercial Services Union
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Searing criticism of coastguard plans must force rethink
A report published yesterday by the Commons transport select committee describes the proposals as “seriously flawed” and calls for them to be scrapped and replaced with new plans subject to further consultation.
The union says the report vindicates its opposition to the proposals to close 10 of the 18 existing coastguard centres in the UK and cut staff by 38% over four years, from almost 600 to 370.
The committee agrees that this would result in a loss of vital local knowledge and says evidence it took raised “serious concerns” that the safety of people at sea and on our coastline would be jeopardised.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s handling of the issue is slated, with the report stating there was a “conspicuous absence of any prior consultation” with coastguards, unions, volunteers and others.
The report adds: “The MCA has mishandled the consultation and made it appear opaque rather than clear and open-minded. It has appeared arrogant, and reluctant to open itself to proper scrutiny in the process. The atmosphere of disquiet and suspicion generated by this consultation process is of the MCA's own making.”
Shipping minister Mike Penning is also criticised for banning coastguards from giving oral evidence to the committee despite a previous commitment they would be allowed to.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This report could not be any clearer - the government got it wrong and needs to start again from scratch with the full involvement of staff.
“It is totally unacceptable that the issues - which are often by definition matters of life and death - have been treated in such a high-handed manner by ministers and management.
“I would like to pay tribute to our members and reps who contributed to the consultation and the select committee’s inquiry. It is clear their invaluable insight and expertise had a major influence on the MPs’ findings.”