What Yeovil really needs to bring security to the 7,000 odd people who work at Yeovilton and Leonardo (Agusta Westland that was) is some firm orders for new helicopters to add to the fleet of 62 Wildcats already commissioned to the Royal Navy.
Instead yesterday we had a lot of razzamatazz a ministerial visit and an announcement of a £271m contract from the Ministry of Defence to use Leonardo to maintain and support the Wildcat Fleet for the next five years. Whilst the news is welcome, we should not kid ourselves that this is new money. Despite the warm words from the Minister, Harriett Baldwin , “This Wildcat deal delivers a key capability for the Royal Navy and Army, and supports vital high-skilled jobs in Somerset, where there’s a proud tradition of supporting UK helicopter operations.” All true but that deal was already in place. It is part of a 30 year contract to support the helicopters. All that has happened here is that something that was expected, has been confirmed. And only for the next five years.
And as the Minster acknowledged, this will only secure the future of 500 jobs in and around Yeovil, out of a total of 7,000.
In the meantime there has been no statement from the MoD about the ownership of the tooling for the Wildcat and how the UK government intends to proceed to secure it for the taxpayer. Nor is there any announcement of new purchases of helicopters, something that would make a very real difference to the future viability of the site.