Chaps - a little news for your comments..........from the Telegraph...... Junior soldiers 'being sacked to cut costs' By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent (Filed: 08/03/2004) The Army has been ordered to sack junior soldiers in order to save £5 million a year while at the same time employing nearly 200 surplus senior officers at an annual cost of about £12 million. The Army has been struggling for several years with a shortage of junior soldiers and despite increased recruitment of so-called "foreign and Commonwealth soldiers" is still 3,000 short of requirements. But experienced soldiers are being thrown out under a system known as manning control which the MoD has been using to cut the number of junior soldiers serving the 22 years that would allow them to earn an immediate pension. Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces Minister, said last month that "manning control procedures are only ever used for sensible management reasons, and not to avoid pension commitments. In fact, they have not been used since 2002". But a document obtained by The Telegraph shows that Lt Gen Sir Alistair Irwin, the Adjutant General, has been ordered to save £4.9 million this year through manning control, "all of which is expected to be achieved". At the same time, figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that the Army has 196 more officers between the ranks of lieutenant colonel and full general than it needs. Their salaries alone amount to an estimated £12m a year. The Army employs 60 serving generals, 26 more than the 34 it is supposed to have. The MoD said: "Given the British Army's commitments worldwide staff officers are in high demand and we have sufficient staff officers to do the job." But their continuing employment contrasts sharply with the fate of the junior soldiers, who have been "manning controlled" in a move that many soldiers believe is designed to save money on pensions. Junior soldiers traditionally signed on for 22 years and could give a year's notice after a pre-determined minimum term of service. Those who served the full 22 years received a small pension to compensate for the need to start a second career late in life. The MoD has been trying to cut the amount of money it pays out in such pensions and has announced a scheme which it says will give new soldiers a better deal but which in fact cuts the end-of-service pension dramatically. Most serving soldiers remain eligible for the old, more expensive system, and despite the manpower shortage, the MoD has been telling commanding officers to force out hundreds of soldiers to avoid the pension commitment. Large numbers of soldiers have been forced out under the manning control procedures and several hundred are now suing the MoD demanding compensation for their lost pensions. In at least two cases, soldiers injured during operations who should have been medically discharged with a disablement pension have been "manning controlled". The Liberal Democrats demanded that the manning control measures be suspended. Paul Keetch, the party's defence spokesman, said: "Sacking soldiers to cut costs while there is a surplus of officers is both offensive and wrong. "The MoD has systematically avoided the truth on manning control. The policy should be suspended and the case for an inquiry is now unanswerable." Anyone surprised?