THE Minister responsible for the future of 1,000 Taunton-based jobs says he will listen to local views.

Derek Twigg was at the Ministry of Defence-owned UK Hydrographic Office this morning (Wednesday) to talk to staff and bosses about rebuilding on the existing Admiralty Way site; moving to new premises in Norton Fitzwarren; or relocating to offices beside the MetOffice, in Exeter.

The final decision, originally expected last month, will be announced late this year after a review of the service.

Mr Twigg, who toured the sea-chart maker's offices before moving onto Exeter, said: "I've got an open mind - there are strong arguments and I will listen to them.

"I'll also make sure the local authorities are involved in the process.

"I'm well aware of the Gazette's involvement and its campaign to keep the UKHO in Taunton - (hundreds of readers signed our petition to keep it in the county town)."

He added that he would consider the effect of any decision on the Project Taunton plans for thousands of new homes and businesses in the area.

Mr Twigg praised the UKHO's "world-class" service, adding: "I want to listen to the various points of view.

"I'm aware of people's concerns and want to make sure the unions and staff are fully involved in the decision-making process.

"It's not about cost-cutting - it's about providing the best possible service to Government and commercial customers."

The Government is reviewing the possible structure and ownership of the UKHO, including the possibility of it becoming a company partly privatised or fully owned by the MoD.

It also wants to ensure the service continues as a world leader in the paper chart business while developing in the digital marketplace.

UKHO chief executive Mike Robinson said: "The quality, integrity and commitment to safety upon which the UKHO is founded won't be adversely affected by any change in its status.

"Whatever the outcome, we will ensure that the service we provide to our defence and Government customers is protected, now and in the future."

Meanwhile, a delegation from Taunton, including local and regional government representatives, will meet Mr Twigg at the MoD and Taunton MP Jeremy Browne is holding talks with Mr Robinson on Monday week.