Millions spent on top officers’ homes while lower ranks miss out
By Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady
December 21 2008
Millions of pounds are being spent annually on dozens of luxurious homes complete with domestic staff, including cooks, cleaners and gardeners, for Army top brass. More than £4.4m was spent on “official service residences” last year, according to new figures disclosed by the Ministry of Defence under Freedom of Information rules.
The figures have provoked anger among politicians and campaigners who called the amounts “horrendous” last night and contrasted them with “appalling” accommodation conditions faced by most ordinary soldiers.
Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, said many rank-and-file troops were returning from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to “sub-standard” housing. “Married soldiers are coming home to find their families living in conditions that are not up to acceptable standards,” he said.
Julie McCarthy, chief executive of the Army Families Federation, condemned the millions spent. “The amount of money is horrendous,” she said. “We’ve got units coming back from overseas and we don’t have sufficient houses in the right area, so have people being spread to the four winds.”
The Liberal Democrat Defence spokesman Nick Harvey said: “The Government is quite creative in describing the amounts it is spending on housing, as the lion’s share is going on the running costs of existing accommodation. What they are providing for the top brass shows a clear difference in how they regard the different ranks.”
Referring to accommodation issues in his Christmas message to troops this year, General Sir David Richards, Commander-in-Chief, Land Forces, admitted there is “much more still to do” and assured soldiers “we will maintain firm pressure to deliver in this area”.
But while many soldiers face spending years in crumbling homes badly in need of repair, the head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt benefits from living in a residence that could cost up to £256,000 a year to run. Sir Richard has the use of the late Diana, Princess of Wales’s former apartment at Kensington Palace in London while his successor-in-waiting, General Sir David Richards, enjoys the trappings of Bulford Manor.
“Occupants of official service residences hold posts that require them to entertain and accommodate guests,” the MoD said in a statement. “Expenditure is kept under close scrutiny and tight control.”
The MoD refused to disclose detailed figures for individual officers but it is understood the maximum senior officers are expected to contribute towards their accommodation is less than £9,000 a year. Even senior officers who do not live in an official residence can still live in expensive properties at little cost. The Assistant Chief of the General Staff pays just £100 towards a rent bill of more than £1,400 a month, it was revealed last year. By contrast, an average soldier living in a three-bed semi-detached house has to pay around £400 in rent and council tax each month.
Thousands of soldiers are living in poor quality accommodation, and low-paid troops are near the “UK definition of poverty”, according to military sources. Opening new barracks at Catterick, North Yorkshire, last month, the Defence minister Kevan Jones said there had been a “legacy of under-funding in Armed Forces housing”.
I think the top brass shoud have to reveal all they get. No secrets allowed there. The public has thr right to know. So the excuse is they need the residents for entertaining. I bet the tax payer pays for those wonderful parties as well. I bet they have fabulous retirement parties for the top brass too. Like they are just so special. Oh yes the top Brass get treated like kings and the soldiers get treated like dirt.
I have a few opinions on this but Cursing and Swearing is not my typical style.
But I am thinking…………………and believe me, they are not nice thoughts. Lets just say I am not impressed. Seems to me someone needs a few good smacks up the side of the head.