Around 500 military and civilian jobs are to go at RAF base Menwith Hill as the US scales back its defense budget.
The US European Command has said today that 500 staff will leave Menwith Hill by October 2016.
The cutbacks, affecting American bases all over the world, will have a major impact in the Harrogate district where a high number of people are employed at the US military base.
A large number of children from the base attend local schools, a number of properties are rented to military staff in the Nidderdale area - and it contributes vast sums to the local economy.
County Councillor for the Lower Nidderdale area, Michael Harrison, said today the impact of the cutbacks will be felt far and wide.
“I heard the news this afternoon (Wednesday),” he said. “There’s been a lot of talk in recent months that a review was underway. But this is a real blow.
“They are reducing the number of employees, both military and civilian posts, up at Menwith Hill. It’s a reduction of numbers, rather than the closure of the base.
“The impact, as well on those losing their jobs, will be felt in the local economy. There will be less people living and working in Lower Nidderdale.
“The contribution to the local economy because the base is there is substantial. That is going to be somewhat reduced.
“Will it impact local schools even? It’s too early to say. But it’s a loss of good quality jobs, putting a significant contribution into the local economy.
“My thoughts are with those who are to lose their jobs.
“It’s bad news for the area. But at least the base is still going to be here.”
In November last year the Ministry of Defence applied for planning permission to demolish 66 houses at the site near Darley.
The proposals had sparked rumours in the local community that the operation at Menwith Hill was being downsized.
Squadron Leader Geoff Dickson, the RAF Commander for RAF Menwith Hill, said at the time: “The housing demolition is a scheduled project to demolish older, inadequate housing that is simply becoming too expensive to maintain while adequate housing alternatives exist in the local community.”
When asked if there were fewer service personnel and their families living at the site, Mr Dickson responded: “For reasons of security, RAF Menwith Hill does not discuss precise numbers of personnel assigned or rumours of changes to those numbers.
“However, the workforce numbers approximately 1,600, of which one-third US civilians, one-third US military and one-third UK. Additionally, there are about 1,500 US dependents, although clearly that number can vary from time to time.”
In August, it was announced that Menwith Hill Elementary High School would close down in 2015.
The US military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, reported that enrolment at the school, which houses kindergarten through to 12th grade, had been on a downward trend for five years, and from August 2012 to August 2013 the school saw a 15 per cent decrease in enrolment.
RAF Menwith Hill was opened in 1960, and throughout the 1970s and 1980s the infrastructure and the number of personnel at the site continued to expand. The one-square-mile base is owned by the Ministry of Defence and made available to the US Department of Defense.
The news broke today as a statement issued by the US European Command centre said: “As part of the US Department of Defense’s continuing efforts to rebalance its workforce to improve efficiencies, US European Command announced today the decision to reduce personnel at Royal Air Force Menwith Hill Station, United Kingdom, by October 2016.
“As a result, approximately 500 US military and civilian positions will be eliminated as the 421st Air Base Group and other US military units will be deactivated.
“The DoD is currently realigning its workforce around the globe by employing advanced technologies and combining similar mission activities worldwide to create more efficiencies.”
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