THE [British] army is expected to set out the details of a fresh redundancy round [today] as it seeks to cut almost 5,000 posts by the end of the year.
Letters will be sent to commanders, who will explain to personnel the areas from which 4,800 jobs will have to go. Officers will be told who can be exempted from the process this time round, as the army continues to shrink by a fifth to a total of 82,000 personnel.
With so many people having left over the past two years, the army has had to consider whether it can continue to ringfence all soldiers who are preparing for service in Afghanistan.
One option that has been looked at involves exempting only troops actually serving in Helmand province on a six-month tour, putting at risk staff still months away from being deployed.
Ministers have been criticised for appearing to lean on senior army officers to accept as many voluntary redundancies as possible, to minimise the number of people being sacked. However, government sources say the decision over who goes is entirely for the army and there has been no direct interference.
“We all want as few compulsory redundancies as possible, but the final say will come from the army, not ministers or the Ministry of Defence (MoD),” said an official.
Ministers had privately urged the army to cut 10,000 jobs this time, making it the last tranche. But the head of the army, General Sir Peter Wall, and the chief of the defence staff, General Sir David Richards, are understood to have pushed back against this idea.
They feared this suited a political rather than a military agenda. A further, final cut will be announced later this year or early in 2014, which means some army personnel will find out about compulsory redundancies in the run-up to the next general election.
During early consultations Philip Hammond, the defence minister, had suggested halting army recruitment as another way of making the cuts needed. But he was persuaded against this because of the damaging effect it would have in years to come.
“We did this once before and it leaves you with gaps in capability that are very difficult to deal with,” an officer said.
The army has been the hardest hit of all the services in terms of the numbers being cut. Twenty thousand posts will have been axed by the time the process is complete, and some in the MoD fear this will not necessarily be the end of it.
The department’s budget is under intense pressure and it is unclear how extra savings of more than £200m will be made after 2015, following measures announced in last year’s autumn statement.
— The Guardian, London