UK

Thousands face Army job losses in summer

  • 22 January 2013
  • From the section UK
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The Army is planning to reduce its regular fighting force to 82,000 by 2017

Thousands of military personnel face a five-month wait to find out whether they will lose their jobs as part of a restructure of the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence has outlined a third round of 5,300 Army redundancies to be set out in June, as it tries to reduce the number of regulars from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2017.

The MoD said the cuts are necessary "to meet the challenges of the future".

But campaigners said they created a "worrying" situation for Army families.

Redundancy notices to those affected by this latest round will be issued on 18 June.

No personnel preparing for, serving on, or recovering from deployments on that date will lose their jobs unless they have applied for redundancy, the MoD said, but they could be affected next year.

This round of redundancies will be the largest set of cuts faced by the Army so far as the MoD bids to plug a £38bn hole in the defence budget.

'Live within means'

Catherine Spencer, of the Army Families Federation, said redundancy for soldiers often meant "a complicated and worrying process" for their families.

"The family are more likely to accompany a soldier, they are quite likely to be living in service family accommodation, so they're going to be asking themselves where they're going to be living, what their soldier is going to do for a job, where their children are going to go to school and, quite often, whether their spouse will lose their job because they'll have to relocate to another area."

Defence minister Mark Francois insisted the MoD would ensure it retained the capabilities the Armed Forces required.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he said he could not guarantee all of the redundancies would be made from those who had applied.

But he said some 60% of redundancies in the first tranche had come from applicants and more than 70% in the second.

Mr Francois added the Army "must live within its means".

Labour questioned defence cuts in the wake of the recent hostage crisis in Algeria and concerns that the UK faces a growing battle with Islamist extremism in North Africa.

The government insists the only support likely to be offered in that region will be logistical, rather than troops.

About 17,000 armed forces jobs are scheduled to go under the terms of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), announced in 2010.

The navy and air force have to cut 5,000 jobs each, the Army 7,000 and about 25,000 civilian staff working at the MoD face redundancy.

In 2011, a further reduction of 12,000 was identified for the regular Army, as the government seeks to put greater emphasis on military reserves.

Last year, the government announced reservist numbers were to be doubled to 30,000 by 2018, to help fill the gap.

The MoD said: "It is important the armed forces continue to recruit to ensure we have enough quality junior ranks and young officers to promote up through the organisation in future.

"The armed forces redundancy programme has been designed to safeguard those skill sets needed in the future armed forces, while ensuring that rank structure remains balanced and support to combat operations is not compromised."

'Dreadful day'

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said it was "a dreadful day" for many members of the Army and their families.

He said: "To announce a new plan for North Africa on Monday and announce 5,000 redundancies in the Army on Tuesday just seems to make no sense whatsoever."

Maj Gen Patrick Cordingley told BBC Radio 5 live the UK's participation in a major land war in the future would be much smaller than in previous conflicts as a result of the changes.

Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said the latest round of redundancies were "part of a reconfiguration" set out in the 2010 SDSR and the Army 2020 vision to make the Army "more flexible, adaptable and agile".

He added the UK was "going to continue to have a highly capable, highly operational - even more capable and more operational - Army and armed forces who will, the prime minister has no doubt, continue to do an absolutely excellent job."

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