Fears raised as UK's military numbers drops amid tensions with Russia and Iran

MINISTERS have been accused of ‘running down’ the UK military after figures showed a decrease in trained personnel across the services.

Friday, 16th August 2019, 1:47 pm
Updated Friday, 16th August 2019, 7:50 pm
Royal Marines and attached ranks of 40 Commando’s Bravo Company Group, based at Sangin, provide medical assistance to wounded Afghan children. Photo:: LA(PHOT) AJ MACLEOD/MoD

Data published by the Ministry of Defence shows the full-time trade trained strength of the army was 74,440 as of July 1, compared to the workforce requirement of 82,000 – a deficit of 9.2 per cent.

In July 2018, the figure was 76,880.

The RAF total stood at 29,930 of the required 31,840, a decrease from July 2018's total of 30,280.

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The Royal Navy and Royal Marines decreased to 29,090 of the required 30,600, a decrease from 29,150 recorded 12 months earlier.

The report noted: ‘The current deficit against the workforce requirement is 7.6 per cent for the UK armed forces.’

The news comes amid escalating tensions with Iran and Russia.

Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said the government is either in ‘complete denial’ about the recruitment and retention ‘crisis’ or they are ‘actively in favour of cutting’ the armed forces

She said: ‘It is clear that the Conservatives just cannot be trusted with our country's defences.

‘Year after year they are running down our armed forces, with numbers now well below their own targets.’

The data also shows 13,520 people joined the trained and untrained UK regular armed forces in the last 12 months, an increase of 1,593 compared to the previous 12-month period, but 14,880 people left – an increase from 14,860 in 2018.

Increases in the trained strength of the reserve forces for each service were recorded, including the army increasing by 210 to 27,000 in the 12-month period up to July 1 – against an April 2019 target of 30,100.

For the army, the government has been working to boost a shrunken regular force of 82,000 with an increased reserve force of 30,000.

But concerns over the use of private firm Capita in recruitment and wider efforts to retain personnel have been repeatedly raised by MPs.

The military has been battling to fix its recruitment issues, which has blighted all three wings of the armed forces.

Last month, the Royal Navy admitted a lack of chefs had left Britain’s biggest warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, without the use of all of its kitchens.