Nick: our Armed Forces deserve better pay and homes

Nick Clegg will today set out plans to improve family homes for the Armed Forces and make troops’ pay fair.

Announcing the plans, Nick said:

The brave men and women of our Armed Forces have been left under-equipped and under-paid by Labour. The Liberal Democrats will change this. Gordon Brown has failed to give our troops all the kit they need to do their job. And he has failed to give them a decent wage for the work they do and a decent home to raise their kids in.

“Someone spending six months fighting half way around the world to keep us safe should not have to worry about leaving their family in a shoddy, run-down home. They should not have to worry about whether they are paid enough to provide for their loved ones.

“The Liberal Democrats will bring forces family homes up to standard in half the time the Government plans, and we will increase the salary of our lowest paid troops by £6,000. We are committed to a fair deal for our Armed Forces. These changes are affordable because we have proposed £15bn of cuts and savings elsewhere in government each year, including cutting waste in the Ministry of Defence.”

Here’s the detail of the proposals from the party’s press release:

    Forces Pay: Our proposals would bring the basic pay of the lowest paid soldiers in line with new-entrant police constables (£23,259). Pay increases will be tapered up through the lower ranks. A fully-trained Private’s pay will rise by up to £6,000. Our policy is focussed on the lowest paid personnel. In future we will continue to up-rate pay in line with recommendations from the Pay Review Body, particularly on retention measures for those in key “pinch-point” trades. Soldiers will continue to receive the additional bonuses, such as the operational allowance.

    Forces’ Family Homes: We will double the number of family homes being refurbished every year until the job is done, ensuring all homes can be refurbished within 10 years.
    Cutting Waste: The current structure of the MoD is inefficient and we believe savings can be found from natural wastage, as part of the Strategic Security and Defence Review. We believe that efficiencies can be found in various areas. There are 86,000 civilian staff in the MOD, almost 1 civilian for every 2 men and women in uniform. This is one of the highest civilian ratios of all NATO states.

    There are 800 staff in the MOD communications and media section alone. The MOD ‘White Fleet’ of non-military vehicles costs £80m a year for 24,000 vehicles. Over 14,000 staff work in equipment procurement and support. We believe that there is significant scope for reform of these services. We believe that such has been the disastrous record of MOD procurement in recent years that there is much greater scope for closer cooperation with industry. Almost 20,000 civil servants are employed directly by the three services across the country. We believe that rationalisation of these dispersed roles would also bring savings.

    The Armed Forces are also top heavy, with too many senior officers. Following the end of the Cold War the numbers of lower rank soldiers fell dramatically. But the axe did not fall so hard on the top brass. There are now more Brigadiers than there were in 1997 – 17 of them for every combat Brigade. The Navy has almost two admirals for every warship. The Armed Forces do not need so many senior officers.

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