'We're on the fillet steak every night': The Royal Marines being put up in a Holiday Inn hotel because there's no room in the barracks
Royal Marines are being put up at taxpayers' expense in a Holiday Inn just four miles away from the base where they were posted
When you sign up for the Marines you'd be forgiven for expecting nothing but mud, hard work and danger, as opposed to all the comforts offered by a stay at a hotel.
That's not the case, however, for a group of up to fifty Naval personnel, including active Royal Marines, who are being put up at taxpayers' expense in a Holiday Inn just four miles away from the base where they were posted, because of a lack of space.
In a move that the MoD stressed was extremely rare, and due to a unique set of circumstances, the personnel have been placed in the three star Holiday Inn hotel in Plymouth because the nearby Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport do not have space to house them.
The £100 a night hotel, just minutes from the city centre, boasts a restaurant, sauna, steam room, and massage facilities should the naval staff want to unwind. The story came to light after a visitor to the gym in the hotel encountered three Royal Marines enjoying the hotel sauna facilities.
The man, who asked not to be named, described how one of the men explained to him that they were Royal Navy Marines and had been placed in the hotel because there was no room for them where they had been posted.
They explained to their fellow sauna user that they were given a £25 a day food allowance and were "on the fillet steak" every night.
According to the men there were 50 naval staff at the hotel in total, comprising 20 Royal Marines and 30 others; and that they had been placed at the hotel "indefinitely".
"They seemed to be enjoying themselves. They told me some of them were going to Nando's every night," he said.
On the day that Prime Minister David Cameron was defending belt-tightening and military cutbacks the hotel visitor was outraged by the decision to house personnel in a £100 a night hotel.
"In a time of defence cutbacks sticking 50 squaddies in a hotel seems like madness."
"Especially as this is in Devonport, one of the poorest constituencies in the country. There's been a lot of people doing really good stuff in the area to help people who are suffering in the recession. But still at the foodbanks people are queuing out the door."
"It must be costing so much money to put them up there. The hotel is three star and they said they're getting a £25 food vouchers a day."
"It seems crazy they're in a hotel just four miles away from the barracks just because the military can't get their act together", he added.
The man also expressed concerns over potential security implications for both the personnel and local residents, "It's not their fault. But I think it's a security threat as well."
"It's the local residents I feel sorry for - they're being put at risk".
He emphasised, however, that the men he encountered at the hotel were very well behaved and that he didn't blame them for the arrangement: "I've got nothing against the lads - it's not their fault - it's the people in power that make these decisions I've got a problem with," he said.
David Cameron today defended military cutbacks to the House of Commons cross-party Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy.
Chair of the committee Margaret Beckett said the committee was worried that the Government had set an "unrealistic" target to implement planned cuts while ensuring there was no reduction in the UK's global influence.
And she asked whether ambitions set out in a recent document to "expand" British influence would simply mean "spreading ever thinner across the world".
Mr Cameron acknowledged that "of course the defence budget has come down in real terms - not by a huge amount but by a small amount".
But he told the committee: "Even in terms of defence, because we have made choices - fewer battle tanks in Europe, more investment in drones and cyber and flexibility - I would argue that there has been no long-term reduction in Britain's defence capabilities and our ability to stand up for ourselves in important ways around the world."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed that a number of personnel were being housed in the hotel: "Due to a slight increase in the requirement for accommodation in Plymouth we can confirm that a limited number of Navy personnel are staying at a local hotel."
"We can be clear that this is only a temporary arrangement to ensure their duties can be carried out and a special rate was secured to ensure the best value for money for the taxpayer," they said.
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