SEVEN Territorial Army bases in the region will be axed – because they failed to sign up enough part-time soldiers.

The centres in Bishop Auckland, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Washington, York, Ashington and Berwick-upon-Tweed will close by 2016, the MoD announced.

Defence chiefs are targeting bases with fewer than 30 recruits – less than one quarter of the benchmark of at least 125.

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The sites will probably be sold off, although the MoD will also examine whether they should be retained for “other military purposes”.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said bases that had “seriously under-recruited must be culled, in order to maximise the potential for future recruitment”.

He told MPs: “The TA currently operates from 334 individual sites around the United Kingdom, including a number with small detachments of fewer than 30 personnel.”

Would-be reservists will be urged to join around 20 surviving bases in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

There will still be centres in Darlington, Newton Aycliffe, Durham City, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Gateshead, Sunderland, Newcastle, Scarborough and York.

The closures are part of a radical overhaul of the TA, to drive up reservist numbers from about 20,000 to 30,000, by 2018.

Reservists will receive military pensions and healthcare benefits, under a shake-up expected to cost around £1.8bn over the next decade.

Smaller firms that employ part-time soldiers will also receive an extra £500 per month when they are away on deployment.

And companies that discriminate against staff who want to serve will face action at employment tribunals.

The name ‘Territorial Army’ will also disappear - replaced by ‘Army Reserve’, to reflect its more important role in the future.

Communities in the North-East which will lose their TA centre have criticised the closures.

John Forrest, Northallerton Mayor, said the announcement was yet another blow to the town following concerns about the future of the Friarage Hospital, police headquarters in Newby Wiske and Rural Payments Agency.

Coun Ian Harrington, leader of Spennymoor Town Council, is a former TA soldier who served with the 5th Battalion, The Light Infantry.

He said: “This was the county’s last link with the Light Infantry, the Rifles and the green berets and now it’s gone – it’s very sad.”

Today’s announcement triggered a furious Commons row when Mr Hammond failed to reveal the 38 bases that are closing, during his statement to MPs.

Mr Hammond also said about £40m of investment in kit, such as night vision kit and helmet cameras, would be brought forward.