Nearly half of Britain's coastguard stations 'to close'

Coastguards on Yorkshire's East Coast said "no one feels safe" after it emerged nearly half of Britain's stations could close.

The coalition is expected to explain in detail how spending cuts will hit services including police, roads and the coastguard this week.

According to reports, the Department of Transport is looking to cut Britain's 19 coastguard stations to eight, with only three operating round the clock. The service could lose 250 jobs as part of efforts to save 7.5m a year.

Bridlington-based Humber Coastguard's area doubled a decade ago to 25,000 square miles when the Tyne Tees station closed. Staff there who monitor the coastline from the Scottish borders to Cleethorpes and up to 200 miles offshore had "no knowledge" of the proposals.

One said: "Nobody around the coast feels safe. Because of our position on the East Coast we'd like to think we are safe, but nobody does."

Retired coastguard Vic Crosthwaite said: "We joked for many years about coastguard headquarters Birmingham – it is finally heading in that direction."

A Public and Commercial Services union spokesman said: "As an emergency service, it's absolutely essential that coastguards are properly resourced to ensure lives are not put at risk."

A decision on "outsourcing" search and rescue operations is also scheduled to be made – with a French-US consortium in the running to take over from the Royal Navy fleet.

Police forces are expecting a five per cent fall in their budgets while grants to local authorities are in line to drop 10 per cent on average in 2011-12. Money paid under the Highway Maintenance Formulae for "road conditions", such as repairing potholes, will also reportedly be phased out over four years.

Defra is also said to be about to announce that the Government will no longer pick up the bill for outbreaks of foot and mouth and other animal diseases. Instead a new arms-length body could work with farmers to devise new ways of providing compensation – possibly though insurance.

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