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UK military under strength as regular troop numbers fall

Sky News logo Sky News 16/08/2019 12:12:00

a person in a military vehicle: Labour have branded it a recruitment and retention 'crisis' © GettyLabour have branded it a recruitment and retention 'crisis' Britain's military has continued to shrink leaving all three services below full fighting strength, Ministry of Defence figures show.

The army, the RAF and navy have all seen a drop in the number of fully-trained regular personnel, leading to ministers being accused of "running down" the UK's armed forces.

Labour have branded it a recruitment and retention "crisis" and are pressing Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to "come clean".

The army suffered the biggest fall, with figures showing the service more than 7,000 troops short of its 82,000 target size.

MoD data shows the full-time trained strength of the army was 74,440 in July, compared to 76,880 last year.

While the RAF and navy saw smaller declines, both fall short of their target strength.

The RAF total stood at 29,930 of the required 31,840 - a fall from 30,280 last year. a close up of text on a white background: The army launched a controversial campaign to attract younger recruits this year. Pic: MoD © PAThe army launched a controversial campaign to attract younger recruits this year. Pic: MoD

Over the period, the number of Royal Navy and Royal Marines fell from 29,150 to 29,090, against a requirement of 30,600.

The MoD report noted: "The current deficit against the workforce requirement is 7.6% for the UK armed forces."

The latest data also shows 13,520 people joined the regular armed forces in the last 12 months, an increase of 1,593 compared to the previous year.

However, 14,880 people also left - an increase from 14,860 in 2018.

Gallery: Military training exercises around the world (Photos)

Increases in the trained strength of the reserve forces for each service were recorded, including the army, which rose by 210 to 27,000 in the 12 months to July - against an April target of 30,100.

For the army, the government has been working to bolster the regular force of 82,000 with an increased reserve of 30,000.

But the use of private firm Capita in recruitment and wider efforts to retain personnel have faced continued criticism.

A financial watchdog previously found Capita had consistently failed to meet recruitment targets every year since it got the £495m contract in 2012, while an online system had gone massively over budget and was eventually delivered more than four years late.

Gallery: The largest armies in the world (24/7 Wall Street)

Earlier this year, the army launched a controversial campaign to attract younger recruits in appealing to "snowflakes" and "selfie addicts" using Your Country Needs You-style posters from the First World War.

Responding to the latest figures, shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said: "It is clear that the Conservatives just cannot be trusted with our country's defences.

"Year after year they are running down our armed forces, with numbers now well below their own targets.

"Ministers are either in complete denial about this crisis in recruitment and retention, or they are actively in favour of cutting the armed forces to these historically low levels.

"The new defence secretary should come clean about which it is."

An MoD spokesperson said: "We have been working hard to improve our recruitment process and are already seeing results, with regular soldier applications at a five-year high in 2018/19.

"March also saw the largest intake of recruits since 2012, although given the time it takes to train soldiers, it is too soon to see these results reflected as an upturn in trained strength.

"The army continues to meet all of its operational commitments to keep Britain safe and we are committed to working with Capita to address remaining challenges."

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16. elokuuta 2019 15:12:00 Categories: Entertainment Weekly Sky News

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