MPs warn services are being cut too far

The fragment from the Union Jack believed to have flown on board HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. Credit: Sotheby's

Flag from HMS Victory and Lord Nelson’s love letters up for sale at London auction

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Mass job cuts in the Royal Navy and the other armed forces are being determined by short-term cost-cutting not long-term military needs, MPs warned today.

In a critical report, the Public Accounts Committee said plans to reduce the civilian workforce by 29,000 and military personnel by 25,000 were being pushed through without a proper understanding of what skills would be required in the future.

While the move will save £4.1bn by 2015 it could also fuel spending on outside consultants, which has already soared from £6m to £270m in just four years, the MPs warned.

But they said they were encouraged by the MoD’s attempts to tackle poor staff morale, which it had acknowledged was ‘not in a good place’ as a result of the changes.

Margaret Hodge, who chairs the committee, said: ‘We recognise that the MoD must make tough financial decisions if it is to reduce its spending by 7.5 per cent a year by 2015, and that it has acted decisively.

‘But we are concerned that these cuts have been determined by the need to cut costs in the short term rather than by considering the MoD’s strategic objectives in the long term and the skills it will need to deliver them successfully.

‘If the department loses key skills, it may have to spend even more money on replacing them, perhaps by buying them in from external consultants.

‘We welcome the department’s candour about how these cuts are affecting staff morale. That morale is low when jobs are threatened is unsurprising, but it is encouraging to see the department take active steps to improve the way it communicates with its staff on the need for change.’