The incredible shrinking department

The incredible shrinking department

With cuts to the Ministry of Defence’s civilian staff in full swing, defence minister Andrew Robathan MP told the House of Commons in a written reply in January that between May 2010 and November 2011, over 10,000 civilians left the department.

On May 1 2010, the figure for MOD civilians stood at 89,770. By November 1 the figure was 79,240. In the same period, the UK’s armed forces shrank by 4,570.

In 2010, the government announced as part of its Strategic Defence and Security Review that 25,000 civilians were to be axed over the five-year period of the review.

MOD then announced in July 2011 that it wanted to reduce the number of civilian staff to 53,000 with a further cut of 8,000 between 2015-2020.

National secretary Steve Jary said: “The department has now embarked on the second tranche of its voluntary release scheme, so the departures are set to continue apace. It is encouraging as many people as possible to go as quickly as possible and hopes to release a further 10,000 by March next year. Meanwhile it is losing the specialist staff it needs to maintain its role as an intelligent customer.”

Jary cited the scandalous misuse of the Framework Agreement for Technical Support, by which MOD has had to call on external technical consultants – to the tune of £600m in the last two years.

The union says it demonstrates how badly MOD’s plan to cut civilian staff has affected its ability to manage its equipment programme and the day-to-day running of the department. “It is evident that the cuts are biting hard. And it is evident that they are damaging support to the front-line” said Jary.

The Defence Infrastructure Organisation, which looks after the defence estate, is the latest casualty. Building magazine reported in January that MOD has placed its £5bn construction and facilities management programme on hold for at least a year. Building magazine said: “The construction industry had looked to MOD as one of the few public sector clients with a significant book of work.”

However, Prospect says DIO is in the throes of a transformation programme that involves changing the way it works, how it uses technology and is in the process of adopting a new business model, which will involve transferring some or all its operational activities to the private sector.

Worse, DIO faces a staff shortage because of the departmental voluntary early release scheme and is now trying to fill the gaps.

Prospect MOD group councillor, Jim Meikle said: “It is a sad indictment of MOD when staff learn about major developments through the pages of a trade magazine. Yes, the cuts are hurting. But they will hurt even more if DIO is not able to undertake the £1.5bn refurbishment of over 49,000 UK military homes as planned.”

Jary added: “The government claims that cuts to civilian staff were necessary to protect the front-line. Now we see the truth – housing for the armed forces and their families will remain in a state of disrepair. So much for the military covenant.”