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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Despondency grows over Longtown depot decision

Unions at Longtown munitions depot fear the decision to close its munitions storage function has already been made.

An announcement on the future of DSDA Longtown and at least 240 jobs there is due next month.

But trades unions have learned that savings from its closure have been factored into the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) budget, leading them to conclude that closure is a done deal.

The revelation came at a recent meeting with the MoD’s head of weapons support, Neil Rixon.

A statement released on behalf of the GMB, PCS, Prospect and Unite unions, says: “Mr Rixon stated that savings identified through the closure have already been taken to balance the MoD’s books.

“We were surprised at this admission as we were under the impression that no decision on withdrawal from Longtown had been taken.”

Defence Minister Peter Luff has the final say on the site’s future.

He is due to visit next Tuesday and is expected to announce his decision in September.

The union statement adds: “Mr Rixon’s disclosure leads us to believe that the decision has already been made and that the minister’s visit is purely a formality.

“But we intend to present our extremely strong case to Mr Luff when he visits the depot.”

The site employs around 300 people, mostly supervising the storage of munitions. The MoD is proposing to transfer this explosive-storage function to Kineton in Warwickshire in March 2014.

Unions say that would leave only 60 jobs at Longtown handling the box task – the checking and upgrading of used ammunition boxes.

Mr Luff had been due to announce his decision in July.

But he agreed to visit the depot first after a union/Cumbrian County Council delegation lobbied him in London in May.

They told him that the depot could be upgraded for £2 million, a fraction of the £100m figure the MoD says is needed.


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