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Sea patrol service left high and dry

PUBLISHED: 19:00 23 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

FELIXSTOWE'S vital seafront rescue and patrol service is today high and dry – because it has no money to pay for petrol for its boat.

It has been unable to operate this season so far, and will not be able to get out onto the water at all unless cash can be found for fuel.

FELIXSTOWE'S vital seafront rescue and patrol service is today high and dry - because it has no money to pay for petrol for its boat.

It has been unable to operate this season so far, and will not be able to get out onto the water at all unless cash can be found for fuel.

Now the service is appealing for sponsorship from local companies. The Evening Star has stepped in to help for the first weekend - but more help is needed.

Suffolk Coastal council officials have told organisers of the service, which operates for free at weekends along the resort's five-mile coastline as part of a network of rescue services, that they have no spare money and cannot help.

That will mean if a rescue is needed, a lifeboat will have to be sent from Harwich.

The service is tasked by the Coastguard to deal with incidents - 43 casualties last summer - and keeps the council's swim zone boat-free as well as giving advice to jet-skiers and water users.

John Cresswell, chairman of the Felixstowe Volunteer Coast Patrol and Rescue Service, said: "When we began the service in 1997 it was costing £30 per weekend for fuel, which even then we found to be a struggle.

"However, this has now increased to between £100 and £120 a weekend depending on workload and our fuel bill for last year was £2,000.

"Our craft Volunteer's engines are two of the most economical available and I believe that our fuel costs are reasonable when you think that last year we covered some 4,137 miles on routine patrols and rescues."

It was now costing up to £15,000 a year to keep the service running - with only £2,250 received in grants and sponsorship.

Felixstowe Town Council had brought forward its £1,250 grant to help and this had helped pay for the insurance.

"The rest has to be raised through fundraising events and private sponsorship so people can see our predicament," said Mr Cresswell.

"We have not received any grant aid from the district council for the last four years.

"We are in a position where our volunteers have completed their winter training with a sea-survival course, all our mandatory licences and insurances are in place. It will be a great pity if we are not part of the Felixstowe resort rescue service for what looks like being another busy season merely because of money.

"We have paid the price for being successful over the past six years by always being ahead of new legislation, updating our equipment and training, but certainly at an enormous cost to ourselves."

Tourism and resort manager at Suffolk Coastal, Valerie Donovan said the council had been forced to make substantial savings and was facing cuts again this year and for the next two years.

All of the tourism budget had been committed for this year and the council could not envisage funding resort services in the foreseeable future.

n Do you think Suffolk Coastal should be able to find £2,000 from its £675,000 tourism budget for this year to pay for the rescue service's fuel? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk


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