A personal view from Anna Townsend, Labour candidate for Farnborough South’

Playing the Odds: Military Redundancies

As a Military wife, the cuts to the Defence budget and Armed Forces redundancies are far from abstract policies but have real consequences for my family and friends.

Thankfully my husband isn’t at risk of redundancy himself, this time around anyhow; another tranche of redundancies will be announced later in the year so we await to see if he will be included. Nevertheless, he spent an utterly unpleasant day in January informing a significant number of those who work for him that they were eligible for redundancy; he currently leads a squadron of nearly 200.

in January the Government decided which categories of servicemen and women would be in the frame for redundancy, in this case it includes servicemen and women at almost every level with over four years in rank. Anyone on operations at the time is exempt from redundancy. In each of the eligible categories, soldiers were informed they may be made redundant and could volunteer themselves to leave or possibly be forced to. Each category has a target number of redundancies so it is possible to work out your odds of leaving the forces. For example there may be 100 soldiers in your category and a target for that number to be reduced by 10. In this tranche, the names of those who will actually be made redundant will be announced in June. Overall as many as 26,000 service personnel are in the bracket to find 5,300 redundancies.

The upshot is an anxious wait for nearly six months, in which it is not possible to apply for a job as the date a soldier is actually able to leave the army is either December if they volunteer to go, or the following June if they are one of those forced to leave. Instead soldiers who fear they will be made redundant often offer to go on operations so as to exempt themselves from the process.

A friend of ours, who only returned from Afghanistan in November after a six month tour, is in the frame for redundancy and fears he may be asked to leave. He therefore volunteered to go back out to Afghanistan in May in order to remain in the job he loves, yet after nearly two months of deliberation the Army refused his request because it would mean too much time away from his family. Yet, he and his wife are left in limbo, it is incredibly difficult for his new wife, she had been planning to move to Aldershot to join him, but because of his job insecurity has decided to stay in her job, 80 miles away, just in case he loses his. Now they are not even living together, a further burden on them. Thankfully they do not have children to consider, yet their story is typical of the incredibly difficult decisions many soldiers are having to make.

What is missing is a formal mechanism to inform soldiers how many others, at their level and in their category, have offered to accept redundancy. Our friend would not face such an intractable dilemma if he knew that already seven or eight people had volunteered to go; in the scenario above, his odds of being forced to leave would then be reduced to 3 out of 93. The entire redundancy process is being run by the Army’s personnel department in Glasgow which has received no additional funding nor staff to manage such a colossal redundancy programme. It is no wonder that finding out what is happening is near enough impossible.

Labour should be urging the government to make the whole process more transparent so that the pressure on service families is reduced and allow each soldier to make fully informed decisions. This requires financial support so that the departments dealing with redundancy in Glasgow can cope with the additional workload. Though it would be more difficult for the Army to manage, a soldier should be allowed to leave immediately if they are in the frame for redundancy and are offered a civilian job. At present the decision to leave is a huge gamble as it not possible to have a job offer lined up at the point when the decision to leave is taken. It is not fair to inflict such pressure and then risk on those who have already borne great pressure and taken great risks for our country.

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