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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Stepping up the fight to save 300 jobs at Longtown depot

A high-ranking delegation were today putting to the Government what they claim is a “compelling case” to save 300 jobs and the future of Longtown munitions depot.

A party from Cumbria is presenting a string of arguments against shutting the site, highlighting issues including economics, national security and the effect on the county.

Representatives from Cumbria County Council and unions were among those meeting Peter Luff, the Minister for Defence, Equipment, Support and Technology, at Westminster.

The MoD said in November that it planned to close the Defence Storage and Distribution Agency depot in Longtown and transfer most of its storage responsibilities to Kineton in Warwickshire. A satellite site at Eastriggs, between Gretna and Annan, has already been mothballed.

A final decision is expected this summer.

Union leaders say they have already been told that Longtown is set to close in 2014.

The council’s cabinet member responsible for economic development, Tony Markley, was being accompanied at the meeting by county council chief executive Jill Stannard.

Neil Scott, section secretary for the Prospect union, and John Grainger, managing director of Invest in Cumbria, which helps firms looking to expand or get established in Cumbria, were also due to be there.

Mr Markley said: “We hope that the minister will see sense and properly look at the economic, strategic and social case for keeping this vital site open.

“The evidence is compelling and I would hate for the Government to end up costing the taxpayer more in the long run.

“I have been to the site, met the people who work there and I have seen how a small amount of expenditure will reap benefits.

“There are viable alternatives to closure which simply make more sense than the option the Government seems to be favouring.”

The delegation spelt out its arguments in advance of the meeting:

  • Closing it would be uneconomical, claiming decommissioning costs could run up to £25m and there would be ongoing site maintenance costs of £1.2m a year;
  • The delegations says there would be an impact on transportation costs from other sites and the MoD would have to upgrade other premises;
  • There are national security and strategic reasons against the plan. The delegation say transferring most of Longtown’s munitions to Warwickshire would mean 80 per cent of the nation’s munitions would be stored at one site.
  • It would damage Cumbria and Longtown. The delegation says the depot is a major employer and the loss of 300 jobs would cost the economy millions “and do irreparable damage”.

Also today, the delegation was due to raise uncertainties surrounding the potential for Scottish devolution, adding that Longtown would be the obvious replacement if Scottish sites transferred to a Scottish Government.

The delegation says saving it would be relatively cheap and simple, claiming an “on-the-ground analysis” showed an upgrade of £2m would be enough for it to continue as a viable site.

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