Salaries must reflect the unique role of services

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COMMENT: A business community that is simply the best

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In this country, we have always prided ourselves on having the best service personnel in the world.

But how long can that continue if we don’t pay them what they’re worth?

Admiral Lord Alan West, who led the navy from 2002-2006, is absolutely right to raise serious concerns about how a one per cent public sector pay cap could severely impact on the armed forces.

The way he sees it, morale could be damaged and talented and experienced military staff could be lost to private firms.

A new report by the Armed Forces’ Pay Review Body echoes his fears.

It’s hard not to agree with Lord West when he states: ‘ 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.’

There is already a pay freeze on all military salaries above £21,000 in 2012-13.

Now people who are asked to risk their lives in Afghanistan and other trouble spots around the world are being lumped in with all public sector workers subject to the one per cent pay cap.

We understand there is a need to cut spending.

But we urge the government to look again at how it is treating people who sign up to serve their country.

Ahead of next week’s budget, Chancellor George Osborne must take heed of the open letter from Lord West, backed by six other ex-military leaders, and reconsider this issue.

While welfare benefits are going up by 5.2 per cent, how can it be right that inflation means our soldiers, sailors and air force personnel are effectively taking a pay cut?

We fully accept that public sector pay and pensions were a nettle that this government has had to grasp.

But surely the military must be treated as a special case. We think taxpayers will understand and accept that.

Our armed forces perform a unique and extremely valuable role. The salary they receive should reflect that.