Belfast Telegraph

Fury at ‘hastily concocted’ plans to axe Coastguard rescue bases

By Sam Lister

Pressure is growing on the minister who earmarked Bangor Coastguard base for the axe after he was accused of publishing a “hastily concocted” risk assessment.

The Belfast Telegraph recently reported that Bangor was not originally on the list of bases to be closed in an overhaul of Coastguard services, but was added following an intervention by junior Transport Minister Mike Penning.

Against a backdrop of protest from local representatives, ministers must decide between saving the Bangor base or Liverpool.

Last week the Government published an official risk assessment setting out the case for shutting 10 stations across the UK.

But the review, carried out by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, includes sections that were penned just hours before its release after concerns were raised about emergency calls not being answered. When the document was released late on Friday a chapter had been included on ‘Emergency Call Handling: Risk of Missed Calls’.

It concluded there was a “very low level of associated risk” of calls not being connected.

Elsewhere in the document officials admit: “The paper titled ‘Call Handling: Risk of Missed Calls’ in respect of emergency 999 calls was created on 9 February 2011 to answer specific issues raised at the Transport Select Committee hearing on 8 February 2011.”

The PCS union, which represents Coastguard workers, was highly critical of the report.

A spokesman said: “We don’t think the public will be fooled by a hastily concocted risk assessment on the back of a fag packet.

“They really don’t have their ducks in a line on this one.”

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr slammed the “shoddy treatment” of Northern Ireland’s coastguards and pledged to raise the issue in Parliament. Mr Penning is due to visit Northern Ireland on Thursday to discuss the plans with the First and Deputy First Ministers as well as MPs and workers.

Last night a cross-party delegation of MPs met with coastguards in Bangor to discuss the plans.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph