From the Telegraph..... Six-month ban on Army recruitment to save money The Army has been banned from recruiting any more front-line soldiers for six months to save money, defence sources said last night. The decision comes at a time when the Army is at its most over-stretched since the Second World War and is struggling to keep experienced soldiers. Some infantry units already face the axe because they are short of up to a quarter of their standard manning levels and commanding officers are furious. "It is absolutely outrageous," said one source. "But we are having to cut back because there is no money left in the kitty because of our commitment to Iraq." The Ministry of Defence claimed last night that, although the Army was undermanned by several thousand, retention was above average so the ban would have little effect. While Tony Blair has been keen to use the Armed Forces to project his and Britain's image abroad, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has been reluctant to fund expensive deployments. Despite insisting last year that he would fund the cost of the war in Iraq in full, defence sources say he is refusing to refund more than £500 million of the money, claiming that the Armed Forces would have spent it anyway. That has added to the financial strain on the MoD, which is already facing a budget deficit of at least £1 billion and has set up 16 teams, known as work strands, to find ways of saving money. One such strand is concerned with manpower and a revamp of the Army and the recruitment ban has been instigated as a result of one of the options it put forward. It also proposed cutting up to five infantry battalions, including the two home service battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment. Sir Kevin Tebbit, the permanent under-secretary at the MoD, told MPs last month that "the manpower element of the budget is pretty fixed - broadly speaking we are not intending to slash away the Armed Forces in huge measure". Senior officers then believed that they had beaten off the threat of major cuts, but a six-month ban on recruiting will leave every British Army infantry battalion undermanned. The rising number of soldiers leaving the Army either because they never see their families or are suffering disquiet at the way they are treated means each battalion needs at least 80 new recruits a year to maintain staffing levels. Comments please.