Search and rescue faces axe

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SEARCH and rescue services from RAF Boulmer will end within four years under Government proposals for a civilian contract.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening announced on Monday that the Government will begin procurement for a new UK-wide service contract, provided by civilian crews as opposed to the Armed Forces.

The contract will propose that the area served by the RAF Boulmer service, which includes vast parts of the North Sea, the North East and the Lake District, will be covered from bases in Prestwick, south of Glasgow, RAF Lossiemouth in the north of Scotland and RAF Leconfield near Hull.

Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith has described the announcement as “premature” when there are no clear details about who the future contractor will be and what their intentions are for the service.

And he says there are serious concerns in Northumberland about the proposal.

“Any new contractor will have to provide search and rescue to every part of the UK, but our communities and fishing industry are used to having that service provided from a local base and will have serious concerns about relying on helicopters from Prestwick, Lossiemouth or Leconfield,” he said.

“At this stage it seems premature to talk about withdrawing from RAF Boulmer when we have no idea about who a future contractor will be, or whether they would prefer to keep RAF Boulmer as one of the locations for their operations.”

The proposal is to end RAF Boulmer’s search and rescue service in 2015. Other operations at the base will be unaffected.