Soldiers should be paid more, says Army chief

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The Independent Online

The head of the British Army called for more money for troops today.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the Chief of the General Staff, compared the pay of servicemen and women with traffic wardens and said he would like to see above-inflation rises for troops.

His remarks come after an Army briefing paper last month warned that increasing numbers of soldiers are now close to the Government's definition of poverty.

It found that growing numbers were being forced to leave the service because they could not afford to bring up a family on Army wages.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper while visiting troops in Afghanistan this week, Gen Dannatt said: "You look to see how much a traffic warden is paid and compare that against what a private soldier gets paid.

"If you compare a police constable on overtime, I think you will find that an individual serviceman gets quite a lot less."

He said more money must be spent on the armed forces for the UK to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'd like to see service pay go up above inflation for the next couple of years and keep going up if this level of commitment continues.

"Servicemen go on operations knowing they are putting their lives on the line. It is very hard to put a price on that."

The basic starting salary for some soldiers is £12,572, and under new rates a serviceman or woman of private rank earns at least £16,227 plus a £2,320 tax-free operational allowance.

According to the newspaper, a traffic warden's basic wage is £17,000.

A spokesman for the MoD said that soldiers earn not only pay but also other benefits, including housing, food, tax relief, operational allowances and boarding school allowance.

Gen Dannatt also said more cash was needed to improve soldiers' welfare and housing.

The General has spoken out previously on a number of issues, including remarking that the presence of British troops in Iraq had made the country's security problems worse.

He said: "Given the insecurity in the world today and what the armed forces are being asked to do in it, then a slightly increased share of the national wealth going to defence would be appropriate.

"I regard what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere as non-discretionary - we have got to do those things.

"To make sure that we have armed services - in my case an army - populated by motivated and well-trained people, we have got to look after their individual needs well enough.

"That means things like housing, pay, medical provision and general welfare facilities have got to be good. That's where I would like to see additional resources spent. To an extent that is happening - but I would like to see it happening faster."

Gen Dannatt said it was a matter for the Government and the public to decide how much of the national wealth would be spent on defence.

"I think this is a perfectly legitimate thing for there to be a debate about the Government to set their priorities out."

In February, the Ministry of Defence announced a pay rise of 2.6% for all servicemen and women, building on last year's award of more than 9% for the most junior ranks.