MP's fight vow on DLO

Wrekin MP Mark Pritchard today promised to fight the Government's decision to close Telford's Defence Logistics Organisation base in 2009 at "every turn". Nearly 500 civil servants are set to lose their jobs when Sapphire House in Stafford Park is axed.

The MP said: "I will be challenging defence ministers 'at every turn'. The next 12 months will provide the workforce and MPs with a window of opportunity to change ministers' minds."

Meanwhile, a top Ministry of Defence official has given little hope that ministers will change their mind over the closure of Sapphire House in Telford with the loss of almost 500 civil servants' jobs.

The Defence Logistics Organisation, based at Stafford Park, is still due to close as planned in 2009, although withdrawal of staff has been postponed 12 months to July 2008 due to Britain's commitments abroad.

Major General Tim Tyler, director general logistics (land), said: "As far as I am concerned, the decision has been made and we are going for it.

"Our job now is to manage this change carefully and look after the needs of individuals as best we can."

Major General Tyler met Sapphire House workers to explain yesterday's announcement by Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram.

He said: "I had forthright and frank discussions with lots of staff, which I found very helpful.

"The underlying logic for this move is understood by the staff. We are trying to give them confidence that what we are doing is the right thing."

He said it was clear the Telford workforce did an excellent job. But he said he was convinced that closure of Sapphire House in 2009 was the correct decision in the light of wider changes in which the MoD did business.

Telford MP David Wright said although he was bitterly disappointed, Mr Ingram had at least decided to defer job losses for a year.

He said it was now vital for campaigners to use the 12-month reprieve to continue the debate and he would be meeting union leaders next week to discuss the next step.

Andy Gilbertson, of the Public & Commercial Services Union, said staff were "disgusted" with the haste of the announcement, but would do their best to argue their case.

The DLO employs 19,000 people at 80 sites ensuring Britain's forces are equipped with everything from boots to tanks. It is to be merged and moved to a new headquarters in Bristol in a shake-up designed to save £200 million over 25 years.

The MoD had planned to start cutting jobs at Sapphire House from next summer. But this has been postponed due to Britain's commitments overseas.

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