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Cost-cutting ‘death traps’

Unite condemns dangerous MoD cuts
Ryan Fletcher, Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

Dangerous cost cutting has turned more than 80 military training grounds into “death traps” Unite has warned, after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) allowed ‘look out’ firing range wardens to be withdrawn to save money.


The lack of precautions were spotlighted recently when group of Gurkha soldiers walked into the “arc of fire” at a live firing range in Hythe, Kent.


The moves were implemented after the MoD farmed out safety at its UK sites to land management company Landmarc. The decision to axe vital warden staff formed a cornerstone of Landmarc’s pitch when it bid for the national training estate prime (NTEP) contract in 2014.


In a letter to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), Unite regional officer Bob Middleton said, “This important safety issue is no longer subject to discussion as Landmarc do not have enough employees to now cover all of the ranges that used to be covered under the contract.


“Earlier last week a group of Gurkha soldiers, who were using the ranges at Hythe in Kent, decided to walk down the range they were using to the foreshore.


“The range next to them was still being used. They were, therefore, in the arc of fire and could have been injured or killed. I have been informed that following this incident the affected ranges were closed for two hours whilst there was an investigation.


“Had there been a range warden stationed at the range they would have been able to monitor the users’ behaviour, as they have always done and stop any unsafe practices.


“This incident was formally recorded and is just one of several incidents that have happened over the past few months.


“I am requesting the DIO review the decision to remove the range wardens from the ranges.”


Despite Landmarc’s website stating that their decade-long relationship with the MoD ensures that “military training estates are safe, effective and sustainable places to train the armed forces,” Middleton warned the cuts have compromised civilian and military safety.


“The firing ranges have become ‘death traps’ because the wardens, who used to look out for people inadvertently walking into the line of fire, have been withdrawn as part of Landmarc’s cost-cutting agenda rubber stamped by the defence ministry,” he said.


“We wrote to defence secretary Michael Fallon on this issue, but received no direct reply. Yet, a family with young children out walking the family labrador could take a wrong turn and be blown to smithereens because of the government’s privatisation agenda.”


Unite is pressuring the government to see sense and reinstate look out wardens.


“Cost cutting can’t come before public safety. We urge ministers to order a rethink on what is happening – the public demands no less,” Middleton said.


“The warden rangers have been withdrawn from monitoring the firing ranges and have been renamed training area operatives doing a variety of jobs – but not being wardens at the firing ranges.”




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