A delegation of MPs from the House of Commons Transport Committee have visited Falmouth as part of their review into coastguard safety.
The Committee is undertaking a review to assess the impact of changes made to the Coastguard Agency across the UK. The changes, introduced five years ago, led to some smaller stations being closed with operations transferred to neighbouring operations. The remaining centres were upgraded with new technology and additional staffing, allowing them to operate 24 hours a day and join together when major incidents demand. Remaining staff were given higher quality roles in line with civil service pay guidelines. Concerns were raised in some quarters as to how local knowledge and staff retention would fare. Falmouth was selected for the visit because it had taken in coverage from Brixham.
The committee, comprising MPs from across the political divide, were welcomed by Falmouth's coastguard manager, James Instance, and senior officials from the Marine and Coastguard Agency HQ who had travelled from Fareham. The MPs discussed the changes with senior management and then spent time in the operations centre, talking to staff as they observed activity along the Cornish coast from banks of computer screens.
In welcoming the Committee to her constituency, local MP, Sarah Newton said “One of my first campaigns as the local MP was to ensure the Coastguard modernisation plans enhanced their lifesaving service and kept Falmouth Coastguard Station open 24 hours every day. I am pleased the Transport Select Committee came back to meet with Falmouth Coastguard and to hear about the progress that has been made.”
Committee Member, Huw Merriman, MP for Bexhill and Battle, has reported findings back to Mrs Newton and informed her how impressed the Committee had been with the openness of staff, their enthusiasm for the new technology and their enhanced roles and career prospects. He told Mrs Newton "The team at Falmouth clearly take great pride in their professionalism and are at the forefront of moves to deliver improvements to safety at sea. The staff showed us the latest in cutting-edge life jacket and beacon equipment which they are promoting to reduce the time spent on location and speed up rescues. It was reassuring to see the upgraded computer technology in action. The staff we met were incredibly enthusiastic about their roles and told us that they feel more fulfilled and valued since the changes were made."
The select committee will meet again shortly in Parliament to decide how to take their review forward in light of their successful visit.