Troops are '˜voting with their feet' amid an armed forces crisis, Portsmouth campaigners say

MORALE is at an '˜all time low' across the nation's armed forces.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 6:04 am

That’s the view of military sources from Portsmouth who have come forward to warn how servicemen and women are ‘voting with their feet’.

It comes amid a recruitment crisis and recent one per cent pay rise which soldiers have branded ‘unfair’.

Researchers from the Armed Forces Pay Review Body surveyed soldiers across the British Army in the wake of the pay rise, publishing their results this week.

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‘On our visits, there was more dissatisfaction expressed over pay levels and the one per cent increase than previously,’ the report found.

‘Almost every group we spoke with considered the increase to be unreasonable when compared with inflation and the increases in accommodation and food charges.

‘Personnel made the case that one per cent was a real-terms pay cut and that it was unfair.’

Now, a solider from Portsmouth has told of how experienced troops from across the army are leaving in droves amid a morale crisis.

The 30-year-old, who has been in the military for more than a decade, serving two tours of Afghanistan, said: ‘The only choice we have is to vote with our feet, which a lot of people are doing.

‘We’re pretty proud of what we do. We just don’t feel we’re appreciated as much as we should be.

‘We’ve had just a one per cent rise per year and the pensions have been hacked quite brutally.

‘Things have changed massively in a few years.’

The army is meant to have a trained strength of 95,000. However, recent figures show its recruitment is well under this – standing at just over 87,000 troops – a drop of more than 13,000 since the year 2000.

Likewise, the Royal Navy is under pressure to address its manpower woes, with the regular force shrinking from almost 39,000 in 2000 to 32,740 in 2015, while the RAF has also shrunk, from 51,200 to 33,930 over the same period.

Graham Edmonds is the vice-chairman of the Portsmouth-based armed forces campaign group the UK National Defence Association.

The retired naval commander said: ‘It’s the infantry that do the fighting and yet what get hits the most with cuts – the infantry. It’s lunacy,’ he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Graeme Macpherson, is part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, which is made up of troops from across Hampshire the south-east.

He refuted the claims there is a morale crisis and said: ‘It’s a great time to join and it’s a great organisation to be in. The opportunities available now are greater than they have ever been.’

He explained since Britain left Afghanistan, there had been a ‘degree of churn’ in the number of people leaving but said this was natural of any large organisation.

Likewise, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said it was determined to maintain the armed forces’ manpower.

Speaking of pay, the spokeswoman said the current constraints were announced two years ago as part of the government’s austerity measures.

Last year’s summer budget revealed these restraints would remain in place for a further four years but were in line with the UK’s public sector cap on pay.

Likewise, the MoD stressed its Armed Forces Pension Scheme 2015 was ‘among the very best public sector pension schemes’ available providing benefits like ill-heath and dependants’ pensions.

‘Our armed forces do a challenging job and the MoD strives to ensure they feel valued and that their contribution is recognised,’ added a spokeswoman.

‘That is why we enshrined the Armed Forces Covenant in law and have introduced a raft of measures to improve service life, while the new Armed Forces pension scheme remains one of the best available.’