Coastguard centres face closure amid spending cuts

Image caption,
The Sea King helicopter fleet is to be scrapped

A number of coastguard control centres, which co-ordinate and manage rescue efforts across the UK, are expected to close under government spending cuts.

One report suggests more than half of the 19 centres could shut.

Ministers are also to press ahead with plans for a private company to take over the UK's search and rescue helicopter fleet.

The Department for Transport needs to cut its spending by 15% over the next four years.

As further details are due to be released this week about the impact of the Spending Review, the coalition government is expected to announce a reduction in the number of coastguard control centres, arguing that as well as saving money, the move will modernise the service.

Private take-over

A government source has also confirmed that the sale of the search and rescue service to a foreign consortium will be given the go-ahead.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show that Transport Secretary Philip Hammond would set out details about the service over the next few days.

But he said the government's key principle on this and other expected announcements was to "use our resources wisely so we reduce waste".

The previous government proposed that private companies should take over the running of search and rescue helicopters from the RAF and that the Sea King fleet - in which Prince William has been learning to fly - should be scrapped.

This service is currently provided by the RAF and Royal Navy, plus civilian helicopters through the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

In February it was announced that the 24-hour service would be run by private consortium Soteria from 2012, from 12 bases across the UK.

The contract is worth £6bn over 25 years and will see the number of military aircrew reduced from 240 to 66, with civilian aircrew making up the shortfall.

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