Tuesday 20 February 2018

Gurkhas and RAF staff to lose jobs in UK Military cuts

Sam Marsden and David Hughes

Nearly 150 Gurkhas will learn today that they are being forced out of the Army under the first wave of sweeping cuts to the UK's military.

About 920 soldiers and 930 RAF personnel will be told they are being made redundant, 750 of them against their will.

The Ministry of Defence has not confirmed which units are affected, but it is understood that no members of the RAF ground crews based in Italy to support operations in Libya are being made redundant

The Army is making around 260 compulsory redundancies, 140 of them Gurkhas, as part of the coalition's efforts to tackle the deficit and bring the defence budget under control.

The MoD expects some Gurkhas facing the axe to transfer to other infantry regiments which are currently below full strength.

A total of 869 soldiers applied for redundancy but only 660 of them are being allowed to leave.

The head of Army manning, Brigadier Richard Nugee, said in April that the cuts to the 3,500-strong Brigade of Gurkhas were necessary following recent changes to the Gurkhas' terms of service that placed them on the same footing as the rest of the Army.

Some 622 British airmen and women sought voluntary redundancy, of whom 440 had their applications granted. The RAF is also making about 490 compulsory redundancies.

The plans to cut the posts were announced earlier this year as part of a programme which could see 11,000 redundancies across the RAF, Army and Royal Navy by April 2015.

Personnel receiving the operational allowance, paid to those serving on the front line in Libya and Afghanistan, will be exempt from redundancy.

Troops who are about to deploy to Afghanistan or who have recently returned from duty there are also protected from losing their jobs.

Members of the armed forces accepted for voluntary redundancy will serve six months notice, while those forced out will serve a year.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said: "The responsibility for these redundancies lies with the incompetence of the last Labour government who left the nation's finances broken and a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget.

"The tough measures we have taken will bring the budget largely into balance for the first time in a generation.

"The extra money we have allocated for the equipment budget from 2015 will allow our defence capability to grow in the second half of the decade.

"Of course redundancies are always sad news, but we will continue to have strong and capable forces and we appreciate the hard work of our brave armed forces."

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the cuts would have "long-term consequences" for the armed forces.

He told BBC Breakfast: "We know savings have to be made. The worry that I have, and the worry I think the country more generally has, is that they are probably going too quickly, too deeply in cutting the deficit, and there is a consequence that leads to decisions such as today that I think are largely avoidable if they were to take things more carefully and more cautiously in cutting the deficit.

"A bigger worry is that while we all know that the deficit is temporary, the cuts at this stage are permanent.

"Once you sack an RAF trainee pilot they aren't coming back, they're gone for good. So this has got very long-term consequences for our country."

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