News that the Con Dem Government plans to make service personnel redundant at a time when the level of overseas commitments are increasing is something that could make you wonder about the competence and the judgement of the UK Government let alone wonder whether or not the left hand knows what the right hand is actually doing. Any of our servicemen and women who are going to be made redundant need to be able to fully access timely advice on a wide spectrum of issues including: welfare benefits, employment advice, budgetary and life skills, debt management, alcohol and drug treatment, and relationship skills, in order to tackle the feeling of isolation experienced by many on leaving the forces.
Some of our Servicemen and women found out on Monday (4th April) about the terms of redundancy for 560 soldiers and 1,600 sailors. All in all some twenty-five thousand civil servants and 17,000 armed personnel in the army, navy and RAF will lose their jobs by 2015 due to budget cuts. The UK Government has a duty to honour the military covenant, which is enshrined in law so the UK government must do all it can to make training for service people leaving the forces mandatory. Anything less would be a blatant betrayal of our armed forces personnel and the often hazardous work they do.
Now a week is a long time on politics, on Friday (8th April) we learned that the Prime Minister is “actively engaged” in a reassessment of Britain's military capabilities and planned reductions in equipment and manpower. The Daily Telegraph said that the rethink has raised hopes that some of the cuts to military aircraft and ships in the Strategic Defence and Security Review could be postponed or even reversed. Insiders said it was not too late for a change of mind on the decision to cut the number of RAF Tornado's and scrap surveillance planes. Some Royal Navy frigates could also be spared, or have their retirement delayed.
In what may well be the first sign of compromise (or a not so carefully camouflaged U-Turn) on defence cuts, Cameron has now ordered the Treasury to give the Ministry of Defence a reprieve on its overspent 2011-12 budget. This £800 million climbdown will spare the Armed Forces further cuts this year. Senior government figures admitted that the Libyan conflict has raised questions about the wisdom of cuts that will leave Britain facing a “dip” in its military capabilities for several years.
The BBC notes that some analysts suggest that the MoD budget will come under renewed strain next year, with some of the pain simply deferred unless deeper cuts are made in 2012 or extra money is found for defence. A U-turn on a deeply unpopular cut or not, that's open to question - but one thing is true it is unacceptable to treat our service men and women in such an irresponsible and high handed and cavalier manner.