CUTS to the coastguard could endanger lives by over-stretching rescue volunteer services on the Fylde coast, warns a senior coastguard.
Government plans to close 10 of the UK’s 18 coastguard co-ordination centres – including Liverpool – will put extra pressure on Lytham St Annes search and rescue volunteers says Brian George, Watch Officer and Liverpool branch chairman of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
These teams operate on the Fylde coast at St Annes, Fleetwood and Knott End and were called to respond to between 375 and 425 incident every year.
Coastguard volunteers currently operate in St Annes from their station on North Drive Car Park, Clifton Drive North. There are 13 volunteers on call 24 hours a day to assist police and ambulance services.
Mr George said: “Volunteers will be expected to be more involved in co-ordination, branch teams will be relied upon a lot.
“The crucial thing is that local knowledge will disappear. The expertise needed won’t be present at Belfast or Southampton. The changes could cost valuable time and endanger lives.”
Station officer Alistair Heyworth, 64, of Church Road, St Annes, has been part of the coastguard for 30 years.
“It’s ludicrous,” he said, adding that when a problem in Lytham is reported to Liverpool, staff understand where it is instantly.
If it were to be reported to a far more distant and unfamiliar station, Mr Heyworth believes that staff would be unable to respond as quickly.
Both Mr Heywood and Mr George stand fully behind an online petition to the Prime Minister to save the Liverpool station. Volunteers in the St Annes branch have also been writing to their MP.
These efforts are in response to a public consultation period which will last until 5pm on October 6.
Chris Turner, manager of the Coastguard in Lancashire, hopes to maintain an effective emergency service. “We don’t want any of our colleagues at Liverpool to be out of work, but taking a professional view it is true than organisations move on, and there must always be improvement to the coastguard service.”
For more information visit www.saveliverpoolcoastguard.org.