Royal Navy to 'suspend' its force of reservists as Ministry of Defence seeks to save cash

NAVAL reservists are to be temporarily suspended in a bid to cover a multi-billion pound black hole in defence coffers.

By Tom Cotterill
Thursday, 10th December 2020, 4:50 pm

Drill nights for the part-time force of the Senior Service will be scrapped until April next year for the first time, the Telegraph reported.

The situation will impact sailors based at HMS King Alfred, Portsmouth’s Royal Navy reserve unit based at Whale Island, who have been carrying out training virtually for much of the year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Read More

Read More
Royal Navy pilot from Portsmouth makes aviation history in new test jet
More thanr 200 reservists from HMS King Alfred, the naval reserve unit now based at HMS Excellent Whale Island, exercised their right to march through Portsmouth as Freemen of the City. Picture: Malcolm Wells (112458-551)

Chiefs at the Ministry of Defence are understood to have green-lit the radical cash-saving plan – which comes just weeks after Boris Johnson announced a £16.5bn rise in the military’s budget over the next four years.

Despite the pledge to boost spending, the armed forces still has a whopping £13bn black hole in its budget to try and fill.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace highlighted the problem during the Tory party’s online conference earlier this year.

He said: ‘It is a matter of public record that we have inherited a black hole in defence of £13bbn which needs to be found in the next four years – that's a National Audit Office figure and that's something we are going to have to see what we can do to deal with.’

The MoD will save a further £2m by not sending Portsmouth-based HMS Prince of Wales to America next year for key training that will now be completed in British waters.

A further £8m will be saved for the army and £750,000 for the navy thanks to a civil servant recruitment freeze that will last until the spring.

Admiral Lord Alan West blasted Whitehall for the suspension of naval reservists, branding it ‘short-sighted’.

He told the Telegraph: ‘It’s a bad message for the reservists, it sort of says "you’re not that important”.

‘The reserves are important for us and one wants to make sure we keep them on side.’

Reserves make up almost one fifth of the UK’s military personnel. Out of the 39,420 naval and Royal Marine personnel, 3,950 are volunteer reserves, according to the MoD.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, warned the latest cash-saving move could deter future recruits from joining the reserves.

He said: ‘This is very sad news following the welcome announcement of increased defence spending.

‘Securing savings by diminishing the reservist contribution will not just impact on overall operational capability and national resilience but do little to encourage potential recruits to sign up to the reserves.’

Interest has spiked by about a third since the start of the year, with 5,944 people having applied to become officers across the Royal Navy.

And applications to become a rating or join the Royal Marines ranks have risen from 14,757 to 18,872.

The spike in applications has prompted top brass to start training raw recruits at a third naval establishment.

Reservists are regularly used across the navy’s fleet, with many serving on offshore patrol ships.

Looking for the latest Royal Navy updates from Portsmouth? Join our new Royal Navy news Facebook group to keep up to date.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

The News is more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription to support our journalism.

You can subscribe here for unlimited access to Portsmouth news online - as well as our new Puzzles section.