MoDs golden handcuffs bid to keep troops

MoD's 'golden handcuffs' bid to keep troops


'GOLDEN handcuffs' are to be offered across the ranks in a desperate bid by defence chiefs to stop the haemorrhaging of British troop numbers.

The Ministry of Defence has reacted to continuing problems in finding new recruits - and keeping hold of existing servicemen - by drawing up plans for a massive expansion of a multi-million-pound programme offering bonuses of up to £5,500 if personnel promise to stay in the forces for at least two years longer.

But the plan was last night branded "a sticking plaster" by politicians who claim poor planning and huge commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the root of the military's woes.

A memo slipped to an influential committee of MPs has revealed that the "financial retention initiative" is being considered in the first place to maintain the size of elements of the Royal Marines.

But defence sources last night confirmed the incentives are expected to be extended widely across the army, navy and Royal Air Force, to help plug disturbing gaps in more than 100 separate trades and areas of expertise.

One MoD official last night told Scotland on Sunday: "We have done this before to fix shortages and we think it has been useful. It is the type of measure people respond to. It makes sense to extend it right across the services. If it keeps the best of our personnel with us, it's money well spent."

The planned bonuses are revealed as it emerges the shortfall in the number of personnel required to defend Britain's interest has widened to its largest since the start of the Iraq war in 2003 - and more than doubled in the last six months alone.

A Scotland on Sunday investigation last week found that four of the six soldiers who bore the coffin of a Scottish colleague shot dead in Iraq are either quitting in disgust or are on long-term sick leave and likely to quit.

Friends and family say the men, all from the Highlanders, 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, have been broken by a combination of army neglect, disillusion with the Iraq war and devastation at the death of their friend in January.

Earlier this month, when the total deficit in Britain's forces was put at 5,170, spending watchdog the National Audit Office warned that Britain's armed forces have been operating below strength and at a higher tempo than allowed for by planners for the past five years.

But latest figures have now revealed the gap across the services has increased from 2,750 in April to 6,330, and the shortage in the army alone has risen by 500. Military commanders maintain they can slash the deficit in all three armed forces over the next two years - but only by reducing their own targets for the amount of soldiers, sailors and airmen needed to meet the nation's commitments around the world.

The devastating impact of the shortages was laid bare in an extensive note passed to the Defence Select Committee by MoD chiefs. They disclosed that the crippling deficits of staff, including linguists and weapons controllers, were helping to ground crucial elements of their air fleet, such as Hercules, Nimrods and Sentries.

The fleet of Nimrod MR2 aircraft, based at RAF Kinloss, is under intense pressure and committed to continuous operations. The demands have been ratcheted up still further since the tragic loss of one Nimrod in Afghanistan in September, which claimed the lives of 12 RAF personnel from 120 Squadron, one Royal Marine and an army soldier.

But commanders admit that a shortage of trained crew, modifications and a planned reduction in the fleet will increase the demands on the remaining aircraft.

"These will continue whilst operations remain at their present levels," the MoD admitted. "This limits [the Nimrods'] readiness to undertake further commitments beyond those already being met."

The pressure of work on some RAF squadrons means that they are deployed in breach of "harmony guidelines", designed to allow them enough time with their families, for six out of every 18 months. Separation from family is one of the key reasons personnel have given for leaving the services in recent years.

The memo listed over 100 "pinch points", from fast jet pilots to submarine nuclear watchkeepers and chefs, where manning was far below target levels.

It claimed the Royal Navy expected to achieve "manning balance", reducing its deficit to within acceptable guidelines, in 2008 through "a continuing programme of planned reduction in the requirement combined with continued progress in both recruitment and retention".

But it added: "Headline manning balance will mask areas of shortages in particular groups including pinch points, such as Royal Marine Other Ranks, where we are considering the case for a financial retention initiative."

As well as the extra service bonus, service personnel are offered extra payouts for recruiting friends to the services, transferring to areas where there is a staff shortage, or rejoining the services.

A £5,000 'golden hello' scheme for new submariners was introduced in April 2003, and attracted 788 new staff at a cost of almost £4m.

Mark Lancaster, a Tory member of the Defence Committee, said the proposed bonuses would only be "a sticking-plaster", and could create resentment between different elements of the forces.

I was abandoned by the army
DAVID Ironside, 21, from Leven, Fife, joined the Black Watch and was deployed to Iraq twice. But he is now unemployed, having been discharged from the army eight months ago due to physical and mental illness. He claims he has received little help.

And despite two tours in Iraq, Ironside claims he is yet to receive his campaign medal.

He was first deployed to the Gulf in February 2003 and completed a six-month tour, before returning to the UK with medical problems.

Ironside was prescribed anti-depressants by an army doctor and, despite being on medication and still being medically downgraded, he was sent back to Iraq in July 2004 but ended up being evacuated on medical grounds.

"They just weren't interested in your problems," he said.

A spokeswoman for the army said: "The armed forces do more than pretty much any employer to help staff adjust to civilian life, including training courses, and people are encouraged to take these."
This is unbelievably pathetic - a 5k bonus - taxed no doubt, less than a weeks wages for a 'blue skies' management consultant of which the Govt employs hundreds. With the rates that PCM offer who will stay? The fundamental employment package has to be seriously upgraded.


I wonder if they've given any consideration to National Service yet? Might go some of the way to solving a few of their problems.

Any Reservists been pinged yet?
Biscuits_AB said:
I wonder if they've given any consideration to National Service yet? Might go some of the way to solving a few of their problems.

Any Reservists been pinged yet?
They'll never go down that road again it's un-politically correct
But the plan was last night branded "a sticking plaster" by politicians who claim poor planning and huge commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan are at the root of the military's woes.
Which of course is all down to the military and has nothing to do with politicians committing our resources first and then finding out if we can cover that commitment later has it? GRRRRRRR

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