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Selling off Red Arrows base will save taxpayers' cash, No 10 says

File photo dated 27/08/11 of Red Arrows planes after landing at RAF Scampton, as the base in Lincolnshire is to be sold by the MoD in a bid to save millions in running costs, according to media reports. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday July 24, 2018. Opened in 1916, the base is famous for being the headquarters of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission and is now home to the Red Arrows. See PA story DEFENCE Spending. Photo credit should read: Rui Vieira/PA Wire

By Sam Lister and Tess de la Mare, Press Association

Downing Street has defended plans to sell off the home of the Red Arrows, insisting the move will save taxpayers £140 million.

RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, which is home to the much-admired aerobatics display team, is being axed as part of wider move to provide more "modern and efficient" military bases, according to No 10.

Officials are now carrying out work to find a new home for the Red Arrows.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, said he was "saddened" that the base, which is in his constituency, was to be sold.

He tweeted: "Saddened that the Ministry of Defence want to sell RAF Scampton as part of cost-saving measures. Not the best way to mark the #RAF100: closing the home of the RAF Red Arrows and Dambuster squadron.

"I will work with Lincolnshire County Council & West Lindsey District Council to ensure the base has a bright future."

Opened in 1916, the base is famous for being the headquarters of 617 Squadron as they prepared for the Dambusters mission.

It now employs 600 people and has been home to the Red Arrows display team for over 20 years.

The Lincolnshire Echo reported on Tuesday that this year's Scampton airshow was cancelled although organisers said that was because its inaugural event last year had made a loss.

The MoD is expected to make £1.7 billion in savings in the next 10 years, prompting concerns that the defence budget is under too much strain.

Last month, the Commons Defence Committee called on the Government to increase defence spending from 2% to 3% of GDP, a boost of around £20 billion a year.

Committee chairman Julian Lewis said the hike was necessary "to place our defence policy on a sustainable basis to meet new threats and fill existing financial 'black holes'".

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "That closure is part of a plan to deliver modern and efficient military bases, which will save the taxpayer about £140 million by the end of the decade.

"Work is under way to find the Red Arrows a new home that is fit for purpose."

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