THE spectre of thousands of civilian job losses at RAF bases at Wyton and Brampton re-surfaced yesterday (Tuesday), when a trade union claimed a senior army officer had said there were no plans to keep support staff at RAF Wyton. There has been concern fo
THE spectre of thousands of civilian job losses at RAF bases at Wyton and Brampton re-surfaced yesterday (Tuesday), when a trade union claimed a senior army officer had said there were no plans to keep support staff at RAF Wyton.
There has been concern for some years that the Ministry of Defence wanted to concentrate the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) in the Bristol and Bath area.
Angry trades union officials at RAF Wyton have walked out of a meeting with the Chief of Defence Logistics this week when he finally confirmed there were no plans to keep RAF support jobs at RAF Wyton.
The military chief, General Sir Kevin O'Donohue, has put forward plans to MOD mandarins and Defence Ministers to get rid of thousands of civilian and RAF posts at the base.
The unions say the DLO staff there, who provide highly cost effective and crucial, operational support to the RAF, will either be relocated to the South West, dispersed to RAF main operating bases around the country, have their jobs given away to major defence contractors or most probably be made redundant.
"Staff are very angry and disillusioned at this latest announcement, which has come after months of speculation without any proper consultation with either the local or the national trades unions," said Angela Powell, chairman of the RAF Wyton and Brampton branch of the Public and Commercial Services Union.
When the work was transferred to Wyton 10 years ago at a cost of more than £100million, staff were promised there would be no further relocation, she said.
"The move here worked fantasically well. We have been praised as leading the DLO. What's the point in splitting us up again?"
Ms Powell said she had read the general's business case. "It's very vague and woolly, and it doesn't show the whole picture. It only looks at a bit of the jigsaw, and the full costs have been hidden."
She accused General O'Donohue of failing to consult employees and of trying to bounce Ministers into rubber-stamping his plans for re-location.
"We are fed up of being patronised. His idea of consultation is telling what he's decided. We don't share that definition."
The unions will now try to put pressure on Ministers to resist the plans.
Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, has confirmed to Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly that the MoD has bought a property in Bristol.
But no business case had been made for the relocation plans, which was accepted when Ministers gave the green light for the purchase.
"At the time of the purchase the DLO had not taken any final decisions on the number or extent of posts to relocate to the Bath/Bristol area, nor which offices would close, Mr Leigh told Mr Djanogly.
He said an investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General "did not conclude that the purchase of the property indicated that the MoD had already decided to relocate jobs from Wyton and Brampton to the South West".
The trade unions disagree.
Ms Powell said: "The Chief of Defence Logistics has circumvented Treasury rules and made a speculative property purchase in Bristol in order to force through his plans and make the proposals a fait accompli. This is a disgraceful use of public funds and makes a mockery of submitting the business case for Ministerial approval."
But the formal business case has now been prepared and will go to Ministers after consideration by the department's investment approvals board. It will also need the approval of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Gordon Brown's deputy, Stephen Timms.
RAF Wyton's spokesman could not be contacted yesterday. But he has previously stressed that relocation of DLO staff, if it happened, would not mean a net loss of jobs at RAF Wyton.
It was an attractive site for the military, and the MoD would want to move other activities there, he pointed out.
* The Defence Logistics Organisation, a key element of the Ministry of Defence, is responsible for supporting the armed forces throughout the various stages of an operation or exercise, from training, deployment, in-theatre training and conduct of operations, through to recovery and recuperation ready for redeployment.
The DLO employs around 20,000 staff at 80 locations throughout the UK and overseas, and has its headquarters in Bath.