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Bombshell as MoD axes training base
THE government today said it will close the Royal Navy's biggest training base in 10 years' time.
It is handing a £13bn contract to train UK soldiers, sailors and airmen to a private consortium.
The 25-year deal, clinched by the Metrix group, signals the beginning of the end for the engineering school at HMS Sultan in Gosport, which will close in 2017.
Instead, sailors will be taught electro-mechanical and aero engineering skills alongside army and air force trainees at a new super-base at St Athan, near Cardiff.
The news comes as Portsmouth naval base faces threats of cuts or closure as part of a separate review.
Business leaders, politicians and union bosses in south Wales are jubilant at the prospect of thousands of uniformed and civilian personnel moving into their region.
But it spells gloom for Gosport, a town hit heavily in recent years by the loss of several naval establishments and with more closures in the pipeline.
Sultan has up to 3,000 sailors, instructors and support staff – including 1,000 civilian jobs.It also pumps millions of pounds into the local economy every year.
Although the naval engineers will have to move to Wales for their trade and professional training, most of the civilian employees are expected to quit rather than relocate.
And as the government announced the outcome of its Defence Training Review this afternoon, angry civil servants were gearing up for strike action.
Picket lines are expected outside Sultan, the naval base and other MoD establishments on January 31 as staff voice their frustration over the privatisation deal and low pay.
Tom Start, an official with the PCS union, said it didn't matter whether Metrix or rival consortium MC3 won the contract.
He said: 'Whatever happens, Sultan is a goner and Gosport will lose millions of pounds a year.
'It's got the space to expand but not the road system. The A32 is so congested they couldn't get a Challenger tank down there for soldiers to train on.
'In any case it's a political decision.
'Tony Blair's got to keep his Labour MPs in south Wales sweet.'
MC3's failed bid would have seen marine engineering move to Bordon, north of Petersfield, with the aeronautical side going to Cosford in the midlands

I thought they were only speculating last year - i guess not

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