Army's voluntary redundancy offer oversubscribed

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The Independent Online

An army chief today insisted the "right balance of experience" will be maintained in the Army despite nearly 1,000 officers volunteering for redundancy.

Army bosses had asked for 500 servicemen take voluntary redundancy, but have received more than 900 applications, according to figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph.



This includes 52 colonels, although only 25 had been expected to offer to leave.



There are also six brigadiers and 48 majors, with an average of 16 years' experience each, who say they are willing to go.



Brigadier Richard Nugee, Head of Army Manning, said: "The Army will select a mixture of personnel for redundancy that preserves, across all cap badges, ranks and trades, the right balance of experience, skill and potential to ensure the Army is able to maintain its operational commitments and to continue its outstanding service in the future."



A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman refused to confirm the figures.



The defence budget is set to fall by 8% over the next four years. The MoD is to cut its civilian personnel by 25,000 by 2015 and Army numbers will be reduced by 7,000 to 95,500.



A report is due to be published next month on how more personnel and equipment programmes could be axed.





Colonel Bob Stewart, who was commanding officer of the British battalion in Bosnia, said that the balance in Army life has changed.



"The state of army morale is clearly not good. Exercises and the fun of being in the Army has largely been cut down.



"In the old days a lot of people joined the armed forces for combat, but also travel and sport and fun. That side of things made a good balance in an armed forces that wasn't over-stretched.



"Now you have an army that is over-stretched and a budget that reduces the amount of money that is available. The money available has to go on operations."



But he said that people will have a range of personal reasons for volunteering to leave.



Colonel Stewart, who received the Distinguished Service Order for his role in Bosnia, himself took voluntary redundancy and formally left the army in 1996.



He said: "It's not just because of Army morale that people volunteer for redundancy. For each person their reasons for voluntary redundancy are like dining a la carte.



"They have the set menu, being the army is a declining industry, and then on top of that they dine a la carte, saying 'I'm not going places', 'I want to see my dog', 'my wife wants me to be at home'. It's a whole menu of reasons."



He also said that potentially generous redundancy packages could help tempt servicemen and women away.

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