THE government risks losing talented military staff to private firms if it continues with a one per cent pay rise cap for the forces, the ex-head of the navy has warned.
Admiral Lord Alan West told The News that offering servicemen and women a one per cent pay rise between 2013 and 2015 will damage morale.
The cap comes amid a pay freeze on all military salaries above £21,000 in 2012-13.
Lord West said: ‘The morale on the front line and in ships is as good as ever, but I feel when people return to shore and headquarters in the UK this pay cap will have a negative impact on them. I certainly think when things do pick up and more jobs become available outside of the military we will see lots of talented people leaving, which is a big worry.’
His comments echo concerns raised in a new report by the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body, which warned of the potential loss of ‘talented and experienced’ military personnel in response to cuts to public sector pay and pensions.
Lord West, who led the navy from 2002-06, yesterday signed an open letter calling on Chancellor George Osborne to reverse the pay cap decision in next week’s budget.
The letter, which was backed by six ex-military leaders, called the pay rise cap ‘unjust’ for the people who risk their lives in Afghanistan and around the world.
Lord West said: ‘When you take rising inflation into account, the cap means pay will effectively fall. It does seem unfair when you consider that welfare benefits are going up by 5.2 per cent.
‘The cap is across the public sector but the military is a special case and the public recognise that.
‘The least we can do is hand control of pay for servicemen and women, who do such an important job, back to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body to look at.’
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: ‘Tough decisions have to be made to tackle the financial black hole.
‘However, to recognise the unique and important role of the armed forces this government has doubled the tax free operational allowance to £5,280, awarded a £250 increase for those earning below £21,000, and maintained the incremental pay system during and after the pay freeze.’