The government's refusal to rule out further cuts to coastguard stations is a "grave concern," unions and campaigners warned today.
Under the government's "modernisation" proposals, half of all existing coastguard stations in Britain and Northern Ireland are to be axed.
Clyde and Forth in Scotland have already closed, while Liverpool is expected to lose 11 of 22 watch-keeping staff by summer and other stations are suffering severe staffing shortages.
Stations are now almost 90 watch-keepers down with more expected to leave before the summer peak.
In a recent report the Commons transport select committee recommended that the coalition "rule out further closures in the foreseeable future and confirm that the new arrangements … are intended to last for a generation."
But in a response published today the government said the coastguard would use new technology and ways of working "and is likely to evolve and change progressively just like any other part of public service.
"No government committed to excellent public services could guarantee that there will be no further change 'for a generation'."
In a letter to Transport Minister Stephen Hammond, also published today, committee chair Louise Ellman writes: "We continue to receive worrying information from coastguards about staffing levels, management culture, morale and the arrangements for closing" stations.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) called on the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to put urgent measures in place to address the staffing crisis, including honouring its promises on upgrading jobs to improve pay.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "After all the justified criticism the government has received, its refusal to commit to no further coastguard cuts in the coming years is of grave concern."
Dennis O'Connor of the campaign group Coastguard SOS, told the Star: "The government are offering absolutely no guarantees that the closures will cease and that raises serious questions about the future of the service.
"They are ploughing ahead regardless ignoring the committee's recommendations and expert opinion with a total and blatant disregard for the fact that the service is critically understaffed."
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