Sailors must not be left to feel they are undervalued

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It’s been a time of great change for the Royal Navy. The 2010 defence review axed 5,000 sailors, 10 ships and the Harrier jets.

Such huge cuts were bound to create uncertainty among sailors. But we have to be concerned at the results of a Ministry of Defence survey that point to low morale across the forces.

This was no straw poll. A total of 3,363 sailors responded. Just six per cent of naval personnel said they felt optimistic about the future of the navy and the attitude survey also highlighted a 10 per cent slump in morale since 2010.

Fifty-five per cent said theirs had been hit, compared to 45 per cent two years ago.

Almost half of the sailors surveyed said they didn’t feel valued and just 47 per cent felt satisfied with service life.

Perhaps the biggest worry is that eight per cent fewer naval officers are happy in their job than in 2010 – 40 per cent to 48 per cent.

These are the people charged with ensuring our forces remain the envy of the world and yet they have revealed how dissatisfied they are. Surely their ability to motivate those in their charge risks being affected by their own disaffection?

We have always said we understand the need for the government to try to balance the national budget. Difficult decisions have had to be made. But surely maintaining morale is right at the heart of the efficiency of any fighting force.

Yes, the navy will always strive to be ultra-professional and do its very best. But if its people feel overstretched and disillusioned, that will become more and more challenging.

We think this survey should make politicians sit up and take notice as it is a strong indicator of feeling in the forces right now.

The coalition government must realise two things. One, that a strong navy is vital to protect our interests as a nation and that we must have more than the coastal protection force some cynics claim the navy is fast becoming.

And two, that the proud men and women who serve in that navy are not left to believe they and the hugely important work they do is undervalued.