Army reserve targets concern highlighted by watchdog

British troops in Afghanistan Image copyright PA

Ministry of Defence plans to recruit more army reservists have been assessed as "unachievable" by a watchdog.

The Major Projects Authority's finding was based on the failure of the Future Reserves 2020 project to meet its targets in the year to September 2014.

The government plans to double the size of the Army Reserves to 30,000 by 2018 as the regular Army's strength is cut.

The MoD said steps had been taken to address the issues highlighted and the number of new joiners was now rising.

Plans to recruit more people to the Army Reserves, formerly known as the Territorial Army, were outlined in 2012 as a response to the government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: "Since this review completed last September, significant steps have been taken to address the issues raised with Ministry of Defence projects.

New joiners

"A combination of stronger relationships with private sector employers, better terms and conditions and improved marketing has delivered real improvements. The number of new joiners in the Army Reserves has risen by 50% in a year."

Figures released by the Ministry of Defence have shown that all three services exceeded their targets for trained reserves for the year to April 2015. The Army Reserves numbered 21,030 members, 5.7% higher than its target of 19,900.

Reserves minister Julian Brazier said: "We knew that changes to our reserve forces would not happen overnight, but we are turning a corner and making real progress.

"A combination of unblocking the enlistment pipeline and improved marketing has delivered real improvements. Over 5,000 people joined the Army Reserve during 2014-15 compared with around 3,000 the previous year."

The recruitment of reserves was one of two defence projects given a "red" rating by the Major Projects Authority, which tracks big government schemes, in its annual report.

The red rating is for projects when "successful delivery... appears to be unachievable. There are major issues with project definition, schedule, budget, quality and/or benefits delivery, which at this stage do not appear to be manageable or resolvable".

The MPA also raised concern over delays in putting plans in place for new and refurbished army bases to meet the service's future needs.

The MoD said on this scheme that "a new leadership team has come in and we have doubled the number of people working on the project."

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