HUNDREDS of posts are to be lost from the region's front-line fighter base as part of cuts in the armed forces.

A total of 215 service and 20 civilian posts will disappear from RAF Leeming, in North Yorkshire, over three years, as the Royal Air Force suffers its biggest cutbacks in a generation.

Many of the personnel affected - all staff involved in logistics rather than operational flying - will be transferred elsewhere and the cuts achieved by non-replacement, but there will be some redundancies.

John Weighell, leader of North Yorkshire County Council and the member for RAF Leeming, described the losses as substantial.

He said: "Although some of these were expected, it's very bad news for the local economy.

"Regardless of whether they are service or local jobs, they spend their money in a fairly wide area, which benefits the economy."

Coun Weighell said the cuts would also have a huge impact on pupil numbers in schools at RAF Leeming and Bedale.

Susan Latter, who represents Leeming Bar on Hambleton District Council, said that some local businesses, such as pubs and garages, would be badly affected, but said she did not feel the local economy as a whole would suffer too much.

She said: "There will be an effect, but I don't think it will be too bad. The economy is pretty buoyant around here and unemployment is low."

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon initially forecast the cuts last summer, part of the Ministry of Defence's Future Capabilities white paper.

The RAF will bear the brunt of the cuts, losing 7,500 personnel over the next three years and reducing its strength to 41,000.

The cuts came under attack from the Tories, led by defence spokesman Gerald Howarth.

He said: "We shall be seeking an explanation from the minister as to how the RAF will be able to deliver to the front line as a result of these cuts - only 160 of which involve civilian jobs."