The British Army has been forced to cut the number of new soldiers it recruits to save money, an official document shows
The cuts in manpower are part of a £97 million package of spending reductions forced on the Army this year. Training for Territorial Army soldiers and the renovation of soldiers’ housing have also been cut to save money
The reductions in training and recruiting have raised concerns about the impact on the Army’s future capabilities.
The squeeze on the Army’s budget has emerged in the same week that Gordon Brown announced he will send another 500 British troops to Afghanistan.
Ministers have insisted that the Armed Forces are properly funded, but an Army document drawn up this week shows that Army recruitment has been cut by 500 from January to relieve “pressure” on the manpower budget.
The MoD paper, dated October 13, is titled “ABN 57/09 In Year Savings Measures”. It outlines cuts drawn up by General Sir David Richards, the Chief of the General Staff and approved by Bob Ainsworth, the defence secretary.
Sir David has already made cuts of £43 million to help the MoD balance its budget, but at a meeting of the Defence Board last month, he was told to come up with another £54 million of reductions.
The Daily Telegraph revealed last month that the MoD spent more than pounds 61 million on public relations last year.
To avoid direct cuts from the Afghan operation, Sir David has been forced to reduce the Army’s training and recruitment activities.
The paper says: “The planned recruit intake into the Army Recruiting and Training Division is to be reduced by 500 to help reduce the specific pressure on
the Army manpower budget.”
In 2008, the Army took in 14,280 new people, while 14,070 personnel left. A 500-place recruitment cut would have meant the Army brought in fewer people than it lost.
The recruitment cut will be felt across the Army. The only units that will be spared from the cuts are the so-called “pinch point” trades where there are already deep shortages of specialists, and those infantry regiments with the worst recruiting records.
The recruitment cut will save the Army £2 million in the current financial year, the paper says.
“The planned recruit intake into the Army Recruiting and Training Division
is to be reduced by 500 to help reduce the specific pressure on
the Army manpower budget,” it says.
After intense criticism from opposition parties, campaigners and commanders, ministers have made repeated promises to improve the standard of accommodation for soldiers.
But the document reveals that housing has also fallen victim to the cuts.
Another £14 million of savings will be made by delay some planned upgrade
work on single soldiers’ living accommodation. The Army had planned to upgrade 790 housing units this year. Now only 205 of those projects will be completed on time this year.
The MoD paper, distributed to commanding officers and senior officials this week, says the cuts are needed for the MoD to “remain within budget in this financial year.”
It says: “Financially, these are difficult times and the MOD, like all Government departments, is required to produce major cost savings.”
“Our priority is to support current operations and these measures are necessary to focus remaining resources on the main effort. These measures will not affect current operations.”
The document also confirms that training for Territorial Army soldiers will be cut, saving £20 million. That follows a £23 million cut earlier in the year.
David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said the “unacceptable” cuts are affecting reservists due to go to Afghanistan next year.
Another £4 million will be cut from funding for school cadet forces. As Chancellor in 2006, Gordon Brown announced the expansion of cadet units, saying he wanted more children to participate in them.
University Officer Training Corps will also lose £3 million.
The cut in Army recruiting and training will raise questions about the Government’s spending on civilian officials at the MoD.
The MoD employs 85,730 civil servants and Britain now has more military bureaucrats for every active serviceman than any of its Nato allies..
Liam Fox, the Conservative shadow defence secretary, accused Labour of a “disgraceful and penny pinching” approach to defence.
He said: “Too often, this Government has simply not been up to the task on defence. We need forces that are better supplied with equipment.. In Afghanistan and elsewhere, whether we’re dealing with equipment or other things, we’re willing the ends, but not the means.”