The British military is losing highly trained personnel because poor accommodation is driving some of them to quit, MPs have found. The situation has been slammed as ‘disgraceful’ by a UKIP spokesman, who called for renewed investment in military housing.
A report into military accommodation by the Public Affairs Committee has concluded that both the Ministry of Defence and its housing contractor, CarillionAmey, are “badly letting down” military families, leaving them stranded “for too long without basic living requirements such as heating, hot water or cooking facilities.”
All regular army personnel are entitled to subsidised accommodation, while those with spouses and children are given one of the 50,000 subsidised Service Family houses within the military’s property portfolio.
But the report has found that too often that accommodation is sub-standard, leaving families, often with small children, living in damp housing or without heating and hot water.
One family was left without hot water and heating for several weeks, despite telling CarillionAmey that they had a seven-week-old baby and a four-year-old son. The serviceman told the committee that he had had to take time off work to try and get the problem fixed, adding: “The impact on our family has been huge. We have been constantly worrying about keeping the baby warm, we have not been able to clean bottles properly when there has been no hot water. Our elder son has been having tepid/cold showers; it has been constantly cold in what is a poorly insulated house.”
Another family complained for over a year before structural repairs were carried out – and when it was they were left without an upstairs bathroom or toilet for nearly a month. “It was implied that his wife should wash the family, including a disabled child, in the understairs toilet,” the report says.
The government has been content to lay the blame at the door of CarillionAmey, with Defence minister Mark Lancaster saying: “The service our personnel and their families were getting from CarillionAmey was simply not good enough.”
He added: “Progress is being made, but we will absolutely not hesitate to take further action if they don’t deliver.”
But the committee chairwoman, Labour MP Meg Hillier, has said both the contractor and the government share responsibility for the poor state of affairs: “Forces families are suffering because of poor service under a contract agreed on terms that were wrong-headed from the start,” she told the BBC.
“Responsibility for this lies with both CarillionAmey and the government. The MoD seriously misjudged CarillionAmey’s capacity to deliver a service which CarillionAmey accepts it was not equipped to deliver.”
Meanwhile, former soldier and senior UKIP official Mike Hookem has called the situation disgraceful, and has called on the new prime minister, Theresa May, to reinstate a former government commitment quietly dropped in 2008, to bring all military housing up to standard by 2020.
“From speaking to military families up and down the country, I know the appalling conditions many of these brave people are forced to live in and the demoralising effect this has,” Mr. Hookem said.
“It is a disgrace that the MoD is willing to add further stress and worry to families already coping with loved ones being on operations.
“The last thing soldiers, sailors and airmen need is the added stress of having to cope with sub-standard housing – which in some cases could have significant health impacts – together with worrying about whether urgent repairs will ever by carried out.
“This is yet another example of outsourced MoD services failing our armed forces through penny-pinching measures; while we continue to spend £11.5 billion on foreign aid each year.
“Many MPs have second homes: it would be nice if they would allow those who serve this country to live in one decent one.”